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205 EAST 42ND STREET, NEW YORK 17 f N. Y. 


COPYRIGHT/ i 946 > 1947* 1948, 1949 



All rights in this "book are reserved. No 
'part of the hook may he reproduced in 
any manner whatsoever without written 
permission, except in the case of "brief 
quotations in critical articles and reviews. 





FOREWORD By Ernest V. Heyn 7 

Loo GEHRIG The Man and the Legend 9 

By Jack Sher 


By Ed Fitzgerald 

JACK DEMPSEY Fighter from Manassa 58 

By Jack Sher 

HONUS WAGNER The Flying Dutchman 83 

By Jack Sher 

TY COBB -The Georgia Peach 105 

By Jack Sher 

HEY, DiMAc! -The Story of the Yankee Clipper 145 

By Tom Meany 


By Ed Fitzgerald 


By Ed Fitzgerald 

JOHN McGRAw The Little Napoleon 206 

By Jack Sher 

DIZZY DEAN -The One and Only 234 

By Jack Sher 

BROWN BOMBER The Saga of Joe Louis 260 

By Jack Sher 


By Jack Sher 














AX. 134 


MENT 134 




1941 136 




POSE 139 









1919 140 





1927 143 


HIM 143 


1936 144 


FOLLOWING the tradition of the great profile-writers, Alva John- 
ston, Margaret Case Harriman, Jack Alexander, and a very few 
others, the handful of sport writers with the rare ability to mix 
fact, anecdotes, and interpretation of character have dug deep for their 
material As one of the best of them, Ed Fitzgerald, put it in a brief 
speech he once made on the subject: "You begin at the library, sur- 
rounded by all the books or articles ever written about your subject. You 
make countless notes. You list all the people who can give you unpub- 
lished facts, anecdotes, and sidelights. You see as many of these people 
as you can. You wear them out with questions. If possible, you spend 
hours, perhaps days with the victim himself. Ninety per cent of the 
work poured into a story Is in die preparation, the planning. The basic 
interpretation is the essential skeleton. The countless facts, anecdotes, 
quotations are the body that makes your portrait a living thing, you 

The profiles contained in this book were first published in the pages 
of SPORT Magazine, under the title of "Sport Specials." Ever since die 
first Special which incidentally was the superb interpretation of Joe 
Louis you will find in this collection the editors of SPORT have as- 
signed and published one such full-length portrait each month, 

Oddly enough, it is not always the well-known sport writer who has 
time, talent, or inclination for this kind of "sport specialization." That 
is why there are only three bylines represented in this volume Jack 
Sher, Tom Meany and die aforementioned Ed Fitzgerald. Jack and Ed 
are discoveries or ours, at least In the direction of sports personality 
pieces. The knack of Digging Deep has also been demonstrated in Sport 
Specials, unfortunately not represented in this volume, by Al Stump, 
frank Graham, Gordon Cobbledick, and Milton Gross. 

As Editor-in-Chief of SPORT Magazine, the privilege of selecting the 
"Sport Specials" represented in this book was vested in my hands. My 
credit line as its editor is scarcely deserved. The selection of die dozen 
immortals was little more than a process of checking off names, la the 
planning of specials for SPORT Magazine, I am always indebted to 
assistant editor John Winkin, sportswise to the Nth degree. For the 
adaptation of the magazine text for book pumoses, and die writing of 
additional material to bring the articles up to date, herewith a deep bow 


to associate editor Jack Newcombe and managing editor Al Perkins, 
Art Director Griffith Foxley designed and planned the illustrated insert, 
and the reproductions of his paintings of several immortals adorn that 
section. Bill Koelsch and Irving Brandt were responsible for the factual 
accuracy of the material 

Most important acknowledgment of all is to CX ]. blder, the man 
whose enthusiasm and interest in sports is so great that he dreamed up 
SPORT as a magazine dedicated to the interests of the sport spectator- 
Without his foresight this collection would never have been written. 




My Jack Shet* 

A LONG with the folk legends that are native to Americatall tales 

IjL of the bravery of Davey Crockett and the strength of Paul Bun- 
JL JL yan there is also one about a seemingly indestructible baseball 
player who was called 'The Iron Horse," His name was Henry Louis 

During the brief lull between innings, as the teams change sides, you 
often hear his name. It is always linked with the name of a player Lou 
followed in the batting order and in life. 

"Yeah, it was in '28, see? I seen the Babe walk up and paste one right 
out there in them same right-field bleachers. And then Gehrig comes up 
and he dumps another one right under the Scoreboard there in center. 
Geez, it was too bad about Lou. He was a strong guy." 

He was strong, all right He was a giant of a man in the American 
tradition of big fellows with unbelievable strength* But the fans remem- 
ber him most poignantly as a weak and broken man, his body wasting 
away, standing in Yankee Stadium, a white handkerchief held to his 
face, crying softly* It was July 4th, 1939, and the words Gehrig had just 
spoken into a microphone had created the most heart-breaking moment 
in sport. He had said, "I may have been given a bad break, but I got an 
awful lot to live for/' Pause* "I consider myself the luckiest man on the 
face of the earth." 

Lucky? Well, Lou Gehrig was never a lucky man. But, at that mo- 
ment, he must have been a supremely happy one. For from then on, 
until the wretched, creeping disease snuffed him out, Lou had the one 
elusive thing he had always wanted most the wholehearted love of 
baseball fans and people everywhere in the world. All of his life, until 
then, he had felt he was just another ballplayer whose machinelike 
clouts traveled high and far, but who could never reach the hearts of 
those who saw them hit 

It may seem strange and unnatural not to look on the end of Lou*s 
career as tragic. But if he had played out the string and retired quietly, 

f 9] 

he would have missed the one thing he had tried so valiantly to get 
during his playing days the feeling that he was loved and appreciated 
and would be remembered. He got that He had to get it the hard way, 
the way he got everything, but it would have been more tragic if he had 
missed it 

"You have to get knocked down to realize how people really feel about 
you/' Gehrig said to me in an interview late in 1940, shortly before he 
died. Tve realized that more than ever lately. The other day, 1 was on 
my way to the car. It was hailing, the streets were slippery and I was 
having a tough time of it I came to a corner and started to slip. But 
before I could fall, four people jumped out of nowhere to help me. 
When I thanked them, they all said they knew about my illness and had 
been keeping an eye on me." 

All through his playing days, Gehrig never seemed to kindle much 
enthusiasm or regard in the fans. He was undoubtedly the most valuable 
ballplayer any club ever had. But he was marked off as a dull, colorless 
performer and dwarfed in the shadow of more dramatic stars. He was 
laughed at as "Old Biscuit Pants" and Tiano Legs." While Ruth was 
slamming those prodigious homers, Lou's great hitting was called "mo- 
notonous!" After the Babe bowed out, the graceful, easy style of Joe 
DiMaggio captured the imagination of spectators and Gehrig became 
merely a "fixture" in the line-up, 

Gehrig believed this myth that had him fenced in and trapped. If ever 
a man doubted his greatness and the power and drive of his play, it was 
Lou Gehrig. He had a sort of stubborn pride in being a work horse. 

It can be said almost without argument that only Siose who actually 
played with or against Lanrapin' Lou really appreciated how great a 
player he was, and how important he was to the Yankees* He was char- 
acterized by fans and sportswriters as a quiet plugger. But his former 
teammates will tell you that Gehrig's constant stream of peppy chatter 
on the playing field kept alive the famed Yankee spirit during the days 
when they were so invincible. 

Bucky Harris, onetime manager of the Yanks, who played against Lou 
year after year, rated him on a par with Ruth as a terror at the plate* 
"Listen," Bucky told me recently, "when that guy came to bat^ all you 
could do was hold your breath* When you consider everything, the 
number of games he played, the way he hit, his reliability, and his drive, 
he was, for me, the greatest first baseman of all time!" 

There were several sportswriters listening in on this conversation. 
One of them grinned and said, "Billy Terry ain't gonna like you when 
he reads that, Bucky/' 

"Til still take Gehrig/' Harris said, his face serious, "Everyone 
picking Sisler and Chance and Terry, but maybe they ought to a 
look at Lou's record* He didn't seem very fancy around first base/ 1 

I <o j 

went on, "but he happened to field in all but one World Series. In 
seven World Series, his average was ,997 and who ever did better than 
that? Young fella," he turned to me, "don't write a line about Gehrig 
until you study his record." 

Ruth hit 15 Series home runs to Gehrig's 10, but Lou did better with 
his World Series batting average, hitting .361 to the Sultan's .325. Lou 
holds the record for batting in the most World Series runs, a total of 
35. He made the most homers in three consecutive games, four in 1928. 
He tied with Ruth for the most runs scored in one Series, nine in 1932. 
He batted in the most runs by any player in one Series, nine in 1928. 
That same year he whacked the most four baggers in a four-game series, 
four. These are not just Gehrig's records. They are World Series records 
that have never been equalled. 

The tragedy of Cehrig's tremendous records and stunning career was 
not only that he lacked the flashy showiness so popular during the era 
in which he played, but that he always seemed to rise to his greatest 
heights at the precise time when it would be least noticed. And no mat- 
ter what he did, that wonderful, flamboyant, cussed but naturally be- 
loved Babe Ruth seemed to have been bom to outshine him and dim 
the glory that should have been Gehrig's, 

No more bitter epitaph to Lou Gehrig's powerful slugging has been 
penned than the one written by columnist Franklin P, Adams; "He was 
the guy who hit all those home runs the year Ruth broke the record/' 

Bitter and true. Lou's lifetime batting average was .340. Babe Ruth's 
was .342. That's the way it always went, Gehrig's greatest World Series 
play was against the Cards in 1928, when he set three all-time records. 
He had the unbelievable batting average in that Series of .545. The fan- 
tastic Babe went absolutely superhuman in that same Series and got 10 
hits in 1 6 times at bat for a .625 average! 

Every school kid knows the story of how the King of Swat slaughtered 
the Cubs in the World Series of 1932 and pulled off the famous "called 
home ran/' It was one of the most dazzling exhibitions in baseball. It 
was his second homer of the game. But another player^ Lou Gehrig, also 
got two home runs that day, and the final score was 7 to 5 for the 

Only a few know that Lou Gehrig also called his shot that afternoon, 
He didn't do it in the dramatic way the Babe did. Not a fan in the 
stands, jittering with hysteria at Ruth's feat, knew anything about it. As 
Ruth jogged home, Lou was waiting for him at the plate, a smile OB his 
face. Babe gripped his hand briefly and said y "You do the same thing I 
just done, kid/* 

*1 will/' Gehrig said, simply* 

And he did, He hit the first pitch that came to him into the right-field 
bleachers. It was just another home run. The Babe had already seen to 

(a 1 

it that every fan in the ball park belonged to him alone. It would have 
been inhuman of Lou not to envy this magnificent, theatrical quality of 
the Babe's. But he covered it up as he almost always did, with the shy, 
twisted grin that became his trademark. 

By the Yankees, Gehrig was always referred to affectionately as "Bus- 
ter." The nickname suggests a big, awkward kid who can bust 'em. Lou 
did not cut a very romantic or dashing figure in the field or at the plate. 
When he took his cuts, he stood up there almost motionless, waving his 
bat a little, planted like a rock on his oversized legs. His unusually wide 
shoulders were always hunched slightly forward* When he took his lash- 
ing swing at the ball, there was little grace in the movement. In later 
years, he learned to pull his hits and loft the ball But at his peak, he 
was a line-drive hitter whose homers were punched into the stands or 
over die fence like a lightning right cross in the prize ring, 

His amazing endurance record, for which Lou Gehrig will be most 
remembered, was hung up at frightful cost in pain and punishment. 
He played with fractured hands, doubled over with lumbago, woozy 
from being hit in the head by wild pitches. He stayed in games grinning 
crazily, like a macabre dancer in a grueling marathon. lie performed in 
every Yankee game for 14 years. He played in 2,130 consecutive games, 
not counting World Series contests, and there isn't a ballplayer alive 
who won't tell you that this record will stand forever. 

Even the hard-headed, unsentimental Ed Barrow, who was then Gen- 
eral Manager of the Yanks, was deeply affected by Gehrig^s passion to 
keep his record intact. One morning, as Lou*$ consecutive-game run was 
approaching the 2,000 mark, Gehrig was so sick he couldn't get out of bed* 
As game time approached, a cloud appeared in the sky Barrow cancelled 
the game. Not one drop of rain fell that afternoon. 

"Say Ed," a reporter asked Barrow the next day, "you really didn't 
think it was going to rain, did you? 1 ' 

"Damn it, of course I did!" Barrow snapped* And then he added!, 
"Gehrig will be able to play today/* 

In the 1936 World Series against the Giants, Gehrig came as close to 
becoming a headline hero as he had ever been, Ruth's career had ended. 
That year Lou copped the home-run title, smashing out 49 round trip- 
pers. He was voted the most valuable player in the American League for 
the fourth time. As the Series opened, the spotlight began to focus on 
, him. The Yankees jumped off to a z-i lead in the Series, but in the 
fourth game they faced the Giants' speedy ace* the great Carl Hubbeil. 

It was anybody's ball game until the third inning. With a man on 
base, Lou came to the plate, took that characteristic hitch at the top of 
his swing, and blasted one of HubbelFs fast balls into the 
stands. The crowd really went berserk that day, cheering the 
had for the Bam. The Giants never recovered from Ait How* The 

r j 

Yanks won the game 5-2 and went ahead 3 to i in the Series. For 24 
hours, Lou Gehrig was elevated to almost Ruthian heights of acclaim. 

But it didn't last long* The next day, in the most crucial moment of 
the game, Gehrig slow-wittedly fluffed a beautiful chance to score. He 
had singled, then gone to third when Mel Ott muffed the ball in the 
outfield. Bill Dickey hit a screaming ground ball to the infield. The play 
was at first, Gehrig started for home, then stopped. He stood there, un- 
decided, then started for home again. Dickey was thrown out, the ball 
was whipped to the plate, and Lou was tagged out. The Giants won the 
game 5-4 and the fans went away mumbling about "Bonehead Lou." 
Yesterday's heroic homer was forgotten. 

The Yanks won the Series, but Gehrig, who had turned the tide for 
them in the fourth game, was just another player on a winning team. 

One of the most shocking revelations I ran into as I quizzed players 
and managers and scouts and authorities about the life and times of 
Gehrig, was that not one of them mentioned the greatest day Lou ever 
had on a ball field. The day was June 3, 1932, in Shibe Park against the 
Philadelphia Athletics. What he did on that long afternoon, no other 
modern clouter had ever equalled, not even Babe Ruth, who said after 
the game, "Kid, that was the greatest I ever seen." 

Those in the stands that day saw Lou Gehrig hit four "home runs in 
four consecutive times at lyat* He hit two of them into the center-field 
stands, and two over the right-field fence. In the ninth inning, Lou sent 
another one screaming toward the fence. Al Simmons, the Philly out- 
fielder, made an incredible leap into the air and speared it with one 
hand. Gehrig was rounding third, for what would have been an all-time, 
unbeatable record of five homers in one game. But only Robert Lowe of 
the Boston Nationals, back in the ancient baseball year of 1894, had 
ever hit four homers in four consecutive times at bat in one nine-inning 

4 Well, Lou," the usually taciturn manager Joe McCarthy said, patting 
the number 4 on Gehri^s back. "Nobody can take today away from 

But somebody did. That afternoon was the one in which the immortal 
manager, John McGraw, chose to announce his retirement from base- 
ball. This was the news that made the newspaper headlines across the 
country, blanketing the marvel of Gehrig's home-run festival. But the 
Incredible feat should be remembered, because even the Babe would 
have told you that the most homers he ever hit in one game was three, 
and not consecutively. And when Be did that, the headlines were bold 
and blade for Ruth. 

There has always been a great deal of mystery over how Gehrig felt 
about Ruth and vice versa. There are those who will tell you that the 
two were close pak Others say that bad feeling existed between them. 

f 13] 

Neither statement is fact. When Gehrig first came up, die rawest of 
rookies, he idolized the Babe* The King was friendly toward him* ! le 
gave him tips on batting and how to conduct his life* At times there was 
some slight rivalry between them, but it was never serious. 

The truth is that Gehrig never considered himself the equal of the 
Babe and neither did Ruth. Babe knew there was only one Babe. He 
was often generous to Lou and lavish in his praise, but they were never, 
as many have suggested, close friends. Ruth gave Gehrig plenty of 
advice, but he would always give anyone a large chunk of whatever 
happened to be on his mind. 

When they toured the country on exhibitions together in 1929. 
Gehria spoke of his travels with Ruth as, "the most \vonclerful education 
IVe ever been given. I don't mean in books. I mean in getting the most 
out of life, in learning how to meet people and having a good time and 
really seeing all there is to see* Babe sure knows how to live/* he added 

It was on this trip, during which they covered 8,000 miles in 21 days, 
that the sportswriters began referring to Gehrig in relation to Ruth as 
the "Crown Prince/ 1 Actually, Lou behaved more like a trusted servant, 
or a bodyguard to the King, One night at a dinner in a Midwestern city, 
the Babe, feeling in an expansive mood, chose to deliver one of his 
lectures to Lou before a crowd of admirers* 

"You've got 10 years ahead of you in the big leagues, Lou/* the 
said, puffing a cigar. "Save your dough* Start one of those trust funds* 
Every dollar you save will be one more laugh when your home-ran days 
are over," 

Ruth, unwittingly prophetic, called the shot on the number of years 
Gehrig had left to play, A few months over 10 years from that day, 
Gehrig's life as a home-run hitter was finished. The dollars he saved did 
not provide him with many laughs. He did save, although his 
never approached what Ruth collected each year. The highest Lou ever 
received was $37,000 in 1937, not even half of the &am'$ fabulous 
$80,000 top. Gehrig's lifetime earnings from the Yanks totalled $316,* 
ooo. Considering that he was in there every day, giving all he had, he 
was hardly overpaid. 

One Summer, to augment his salary, Lou became an insurance 
man. The first customer he went after was the Babe himself. Lou 
days chasing Ruth around a golf course, trying to convince him that lie 
should take out a policy. Finally, in exasperation, Ruth threw down his 
cluhs and signed up for a huge amount 'Thanks, Babe/* Gehrig 
earnesdy. "You'll never regret this/* 

Unlike Ruth, die steady, sincere, and sentimental Gcfarig needed 
loots* He was always uncomfortable in strange surroundings. His love 
for his mother, that large, stolid, self-sacrificing woman, was 

ing. For years, his sole purpose in life, other than playing baseball, 
seemed to be devotion to her. In 1928, using his profits from two World 
Series, he bought his parents a small but lovely house in New Rochelle, 
New York. 

Some of the reporters and ballplayers used to try to get him dates. 
They'd rib him about his shy and even terrified attitude toward females 
his own age. He would blush, this six-foot, one-inch, 20 5-pound giant. 
Rubbing a bony wrist with a huge paw, he'd remark, "Aw, guys, you 
oughta know my mother makes a home comfortable enough for me, I 
don't need much else/' 

Lou loved the movies. He was absolutely gone on them, because in 
the safety of a darkened theater he could experience secondhand all the 
romantic yearnings he felt without the danger of seeming awkward or 
gauche, or getting hurt for expressing himself. He was not a stupid man. 
In fact, he was probably one of the most widely read of any of his con- 
temporary players. He was an avid opera fan. He liked poetry. He also 
likeid comic strips, kids, and animals. It was grown-up people, light con- 
versation, sophistication, and gayety that frightened him. By nature, he 
was a serious man. That gria he constantly wore was like a shield. 

He was extremely moved whenever the fans displayed the slightest 
affection for him, or let loose with a cheer for his efforts* He never 
caught on to the knack of letting his admirers know it, but he wanted 
them to know. He was only able to do it after he was struck down. 

"After I announced that I was through," he told me in his last inter- 
view, "I was able to tell the fans how I had felt about them and the way 
they treated me through the years. Their letters came pouring in. There 
were about 30,000 of them. Can you imagine that? It took my wife and 
me eight months to answer them." 

If Gehrig made any enemies during his life, nobody has ever been 
able to uncover them. Although he spent two years at Columbia Uni- 
versity, when he came up to the major leagues he was as raw and coun- 
trified-looking a rookie as you could find anywhere. He carried a cheap 
paper suitcase, stumbled all over himself, and cheerfully took the un- 
merciful and unceasing wisecracking and riding of rival players and 

The only man who ever aroused him to serious and deadly anger was 
the ferocious and spiteful Ty Cobk Although Cobb hated almost every 
rival, he seemed to have a sp^ial distaste for Gehrig. Whenever Detroit 
tangled with the Yankees, Tyras would bedevil Lou with the most vitu- 
perative language at his command. 

'Tfou're a bumf Cobb would screech, "You're a thiclc-headed, no-good 
Dutchman* Get out of there, you lousy Kraut!" 

Gehrig stood it for months. Then, one day, as he passed the Tiger 
dugout, Cobb let fly with a barrage of unusually distasteful epithets, 

f 15 J 

Lou lowered his head, clenched his fists, and charged down into the 
opening to annihilate Ty. He traveled like a locomotive toward Cobb, 
who nimbly stepped out of the way. Gehrig's skull cracked into an iron 
stanchion and he fell to the ground, stunned. He got up a few seconds 
later and went after Ty again like a punch-drunk fighter, but the play- 
ers managed to hold them apart. The next day, Cobb was willing to call 
off his feud and the inherently decent Gehrig shook hands with him. 

Possessed of terrifying strength, the massive Gehrig could have used 
it to scare half the players in the American League out of their wits. But 
there wasn't an ounce of bully in him. The diminutive Bucky 1 larris, 
half apologetically, told how, when he was with Washington, he once 
caused Lou to boot a ball game by stepping on his toe. 

'We were playing a three-game series with the Yanks/' Bucky related, 
"and Gehrig was crucifying us. He was pasting everything our pitchers 
threw. Clark Griffith came to me the night before the third game and 
asked me if I knew of any way to stop Gehrig, I said 1 thought I dicl. 
The next day, with the score tied 2-2 in the eighth inning and a man on 
third, I bunted down the first base line. Lou fielded it and ran for the 
bag. I came down hard on his toe. I've never seen a man look so sur- 
prised and hurt. When the man on third broke for home,, Gehrig threw 
the ball way over die catcher's head and we won the game/* 

Gehrig took a terrific riding from the sportswriters for booting the 
game, but he never said a word about what Bucky had done to him. All 
that season, Harris waited for Lou to get even with him to give him the 
hip or spike him. "He never did/* Bucky said* "Every time I came clown 
to first, he just looked at me as though to ask me how could I do such a 
thing to him. I got to feeling so ashamed of myself that 1 finally apolo- 
gized to him* You should have seen him light upi" 

Without his brute strength and his fanatical determination to learn 
how to control his muscles, Lou Gehrig would probably never even have 
been able to hang on to a position in the minor leagues. He had none of 
the born baseball instincts of a Cobb, Speaker, Ruth, or DiMaggio* 
Little Miller Huggins, his first manager, almost went out of his mind 
trying to drill baseball savvy into Gehrig, "Only this ldd*$ willingness 
and lack of conceit will make him a ballplayer/* Huggins once saicl de- 
spairingly* 'That and those muscles are all he has/* 

It proved to be enough, more than enough, but Huggins never lived 
to see all the sparkling records Gehrig marked up, Lou holds the record 
for making the most homers with the bases loaded, 23. He led the league 
four times in runs scored, two times in home runs, He shares with 
Jimmy Foxx the record for the most consecutive years batting in 100 
runs or more, 13. And for 13 consecutive years he scored more than 100 
runs, which is also a record. There are many other permanent marks lie 
has left, some 25 m all But the thing that tickled Muggins most of all 

was the way Lou improved his fielding. Old Hug fully appreciated how 
hard Lou toiled to beat the stigma of "Tanglefoot Lou," a name the 
sportswriters hung on him early in his career. 

Most ballplayers like to forget the ineptitude and lack of finesse of 
their early years in baseball. Gehrig could never forget it* He reminded 
you of it, every time you talked to him. He didn't do it to show how 
much he had done for himself, but how much others had done for him. 
Almost until the day he died, he was spieling out his gratitude to Ruth, 
coach Charlie O'Leary, and Huggins. 

It must have been extremely painful for Gehrig to see the free-and- 
easy, natural ballplayers skyrocket into fame year after year as he 
plugged along, improving slowly. He was more aware than any of them 
that he had none of the God-given magic that enabled a performer in- 
stinctively, in a split-second, to do the right thing at the right time. Even 
after he mastered all fundamentals and had baseball down cold, an un- 
usually critical moment often made him look like a terrible bonehead. 

It was always something of a miracle to Gehrig that he became a 
major-league player, a star of the famed Murderer's Row. And, when 
you know the complete story of his life, perhaps it was something of a 
miracleand a touching and inspiring one, at that. 

Lou Gehrig's early childhood wasn't guided by any star of destiny* 
He was one of the common herd, a fat boy from the congested upper 
regions of Manhattan, one whose inheritance was drabness and poverty, 
whose young eyes knew only littered streets, grimy rooms with paint 
chipping off the walls and worn-out carpets on the floor. His only luck 
in those days was that he was healthy enough to stay alive. The brother 
and sister who preceded him had been sickly; they died in infancy, 

Henry Louis, the Gehrig who was to become the pride of the Yan- 
kees, who was to be immortalized on film, and rise to the ranks of the 
heroes, was the son of German immigrants. His mother was a domestic 
worker, his father a handyman, tinsmith, butcher, and itinerant me- 
chanic. Their son was born June 19, 1903, on a hot night in the York- 
ville section on the upper East Side* From then on, the family moved 
all over uptown Manhattan, always living In the poorest sections. But 
Lou's mother scrubbed and slaved and somehow managed to stuff food 
down her son, Louis was going to be strong* Louis was not going to be 
taken away from her, weak and lifeless, the way her other children had 

Heinrich Gehrig was never a steady provider. He tried his best, but it 
was Lou's mother who was the backbone of the family* It was from her 
that Lou got, not only his physical strength, but the moral courage that 
held him together through the hardship of his early life, his playing 
days, and tip to the very end. Gehrig's worship of his mother went be- 
yond the bounds of reason. In some ways, it was even harmful, because 

for many years of his life he seemed to be living only for her. She \vas f 
until he married, the only person with whom he could be completely at 

Lou began his endurance record early in life. His grade-school teach- 
ers remember him as a chubby-faced, fat-bodied boy who plugged dog- 
gedly away at his school work, and refused to stay home even when he 
was sick. His grades were fairly high, earned by steady attendance and 
hard work. One fear clung to him all of his daysthe fear that if he 
ever once took his nose off the grindstone, he would fall by the wayside. 

As a kid, Gehrig's life outside of school was not very different from 
that of most street urchins. He played ball on vacant lots, swam in the 
filth of the East River, teased cops, made tar balls on roofs, idolized base- 
ball heroes, and worked. At eight and nine, his round chunky legs 
pounded the streets on errands for merchants. He did odd jobs and duti- 
fully brought home his pennies and nickels to his mother. He never got 
into trouble. He was average in every sense of the word, almost piti- 
fully so. 

When Lou was in seventh grade, his mother took a job as a cook at 
the Sigma Nu fraternity house on the Columbia campus, Heinrich, her 
husband, tended the furnace and did odd jobs. Lou hung around the 
backyard in his spare time, tossing a baseball back and forth with the 
amused fraternity brothers who called him "Little Heinie/ f 

Sometimes, sitting on a chair in the kitchen, watching his mother at 
work over the stove, he would listen to the soft voice coming from the 
sturdy, work-bent body. 'Toull go to college like these boys, Louis. 
You'll see," she said, in her precise, immigrant's English, "We will man" 
age it. Your father will get a better job and you will go." 

The Gehrigs left the Sigmu Nu job and moved downtown to the out* 
skirts of Greenwich Village, into a cheap flat Christina got a job doing 
housework in New Jersey, and Heinrich found temporary work as a 
tinsmith. Lou entered the High School of Commerce, his mind set on 
becoming an accountant. This was not too lofty a goal* He had a fait 
head for figures and, he reasoned, he could never hope to be anything 
more than an average citizen* 

He was a fat, round boy with curly, black hair and soft, sensitive Hue 
eyes, like his mother's. He was something of a ridiculous figure that first 
year in high school. The girls laughed at his knee pants, which exag- 
gerated the size of his body. He said nothing about this to anyone. It 
was that way later in life, too, whenever anyone ribbed him, or cut him 
down with a wisecrack. He never learned how to strike back. Instead, 
he went out for baseball and made the team. 

Lou got his first pair of long pants by working for them in his space 
time. At 15, when he was in his junior year in high school, he had fcis 
first taste of fame. It was overpowering* It worked on him like a drug. 

f 18] 

It gave him an ambition to be great that he never relinquished. It hap- 
pened at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The High School of Commerce 
team had won the New York City championship and was sent to Chi- 
cago for an inter-city game with the Windy City's Lane Tech, 

Coach Harry Kane sent "Henry," as he called him, to the plate in the 
seventh inning with instructions to "Hit one out of the park/* 

It was a fantastic request. Nobody, not Kane or anyone in the stands, 
imagined that a high-school kid could hit one out of bounds in a major- 
league ball park. The youngster weighed 230 pounds then, but there 
were layers of fat over the muscles. Fie looked ludicrous and bulging in 
the tight-fitting uniform. 

The 15-year-old Gehrig, legs wide apart, caught a pitch squarely. To 
the amazement of those in the ball park, it sailed on and on and out of 
sight beyond the fence. This had never been done by a high-school boy 
before and it created quite a stir in the press. HIGH SCHOOL BOY AN- 
OTHER RUTH? the headlines asked. Lou came back to Commerce High 
something of a hero. There was nothing "average" about that clout The 
kids in school began to look at him with new respect in their eyes. 

Gehrig historians, swayed by this extraordinary feat, often make the 
error of referring to Lou as a sensational high-school athlete. He wasn't. 
With the exception of that one mighty clout, his hitting was under .200 
and he was a very clumsy specimen around first base. It was his football 
playing, strangely enough, that earned him a chance to go to Columbia 
University where his baseball ability first attracted big-league scouts. 

The athletic director of Columbia, a Sigma Nu man, was scouting 
the high schools looking for football talent for Columbia. He was quite 
impressed with the way a big, beefy fullback named Gehrig bulled 
through the line for Commerce High. As he stood on the sidelines, a 
small man with a graying mustache touched his sleeve. 

"Pardon me," the man said, "but I am Heinrich Gehrig. The boy out 
there playing is my son/' 

The college man looked at the old fellow in bewilderment 

"Don't you remember," Gehrig's father went on. "I used to tend fur- 
nace. That's little Heinie. Don't you remember?'' 

A light dawned in the athletic director's eyes, "That kid the little 
fat boy" he pointed at the playing field in amazement "That's him?" 

After the game, the Sigma Nu man approached Gehrig as he came 
out of the showers. Lou remembered him. Unlike Ruth, he remembered 
almost everyone he ever met. They talked over old times, the days when 
Lou hung around the fraternity house and the athletic director was a 
college boy. It ended with the college man going home with Lou, 
Together, they told Christina that her son would be able to go to Co- 
lumbia with the help of the athletic department and spare-time jobs. 
Her reaction to the news was to break down and cry. 

When Gehrig left Columbia In his junior year to play professional 
baseball, Christina cried again* She never talked about his baseball. 
She would always remind the reporters who came to the house in 
Morningside Heights, and later on in New Rochclle, "My son went 
to Columbia University. He was a college man. He was very good in 
his studies and I did not want him to leave the university." She never 
really understood baseball She had scrubbed and cooked in a fraternity 
house. She knew what a college was and what it meant. 

At Columbia, Gehrig did not cut a classy figure on the campus, I !e 
was a guy In an old gray sweatshirt and impressed pants, a hard-working 
student, the way he had been in grade and high school He took tip engi- 
neering and, if he had not been obligated to turn out for athletics, he 
probably would have spent his time trying for an engineering degree, 

As a tackle on the Columbia Lions, Gehrig was again average. I Ic 
took a lot of punishment, but was far from being a brilliant diagnoscr 
of plays. "They stomped all over Lou/' one of his teammates said, "but 
they could never crush his grin or spirit And anyone xvho ran Into 
him head on never felt quite the same afterward." 

On the baseball diamond, Lou at first caused Andy Coakcy as many 
headaches as he later inflicted on Miller Iluggms. They tried him 
everywhere in the outfield, at first base, as a pitcher* He was clumsy, 
unpredictable, and slow at fielding. His throws were as apt to wind up 
in the stands as they were in the hands of a receiver. But he hit! The 
way he slugged the ballknocking windows out of buildings over 400 
feet from home plate reached the ears of big-league talent seekers. 

'The first time I saw Lou Gehrig play was against Rutgers/' scout 
Paul Krichell said, 'He was playing the outfield. He didn't know what 
he was doing out there, but the moment I saw him hit one, 1 knew he 
would eventually be a great ballplayer* I've been with the Yankees 28 
years/' Krich grinned, "and I'd like to find just one more like him- I'd 
say Lou was one of the top four or five great players of all time/* 

Krichell also saw Gehrig perform as a pitcher for the Lions. He be- 
lieves that Gehrig, like Ruth, had tremendous possibilities as a hurler. 
The big southpaw threw the ball with such blinding speed that Co- 
lumbia batters, in practice games, refused to take their licks at the 
Elate* The refusal was reasonable. Gehrig was dangerously wild. Those 
e didn't strike out, he walked* "He would have learned control/* 
Krichell commented. "He was the sort of boy who could learn anything, 
given enough time and patience. It would have been a shame to make 
a pitcher out of him, though, with all that hitting power he had. 1 ' 

It has been written that Gehrig signed with the Yanks because he 
was dreamy-eyed about them, because he hero-worshipped them* Ac- 
tually, he took the Yankee contract because his father needed to go 
to the hospital immediately and Colonel Ruppert offered a $1500 

f 20] 

bonus if he would sign. His salary that first year was $3000. Only a few 
hundred dollars of it was spent on himself. 

Gehrig played 13 games with the Yankees hefore he was sent to Hart- 
ford, then an independent team which had player agreements with 
major-league clubs. In 1924, he played 10 games with the Yanks and 
was sent down again. His first time at bat in New York uniform, as a 
pinch hitter, Flollingsworth of the Senators struck him out on three 
pitched balls. The second time at bat, again as a pinch hitter against 
St. Louis, he got a double. 

Lou played his first full major-league game against Washington in 
1923, over the protest of Bullet Joe Bush. The veteran Yankee pitcher 
had his heart set on winning 20 games that year. 

"Don't put that dumb rookie in, Hug/' he begged the Yankee man- 
ager. "He'll gum up the ball game." 

Gehrig began by living up to the Yankee hurler's prophecy. In an 
early inning, with a Senator on first and third, crafty Joe Judge dropped 
a perfect bunt down the first-base line. Lou ran in and scooped it up, 
then stood there holding the ball, dazed. The runner scored from third 
and the Washington club went ahead. 

Bush was apoplectic. He walked over and grabbed the ball from Geh- 
rig. "Whatsa matter with ya?" he yelled. "Ya dumb college punk! 
Where's your brains, stupid?" 

The big first baseman blinked and stumbled back to first base. He 
suffered silently until the seventh inning. Two Yankees got on base. 
Then the Washington pitcher walked Ruth to get at the rookie Gehrig. 
The score was 5-2, the bases loaded. Bush looked wildly at Huggins as 
Gehrig hesitantly reached for a bat. 

"Hey, Hug," Bush said. "You ain't gonna let that kid hit in this 
spot? I want to win this one!" 

Huggins looked at the nervous Gehrig. "Go on out there and hit the 
ball," the Yankee manager snapped. 

It was over in a hurry. Gehrig swung at the first ball thrown to him 
and drove it against the right-field fence for a solid double. Three runs 
scored, which tied up the ball game. A few minutes later, a single 
brought Lou home and the Yanks won the game, 6-5, When the game 
was over, Bush walked over to the locker where Gehrig, still trembling, 
was undressing. 

"Listen, kid," Bush grinned, "thanks for the game. You may be stupid 
with the glove, but you can sure pound that ball." 

That game-saving double didn't keep Gehrig up in the big time. The 
aging Wally Pipp was still too classy around first base for Lou even to 
hope to replace him, Gehrig was sent to Hartford, with instructions to 
manager Paddy O'Connor from big boss Ed Barrow to put Gehrig on 
first base and keep him there, O'Connor did, but the way Gehrig con- 

f J 

ducted himself at bat and in the field almost made Paddy's mind jump 
the tracks, 

"I remember his calling me when I was scouting in South Carolina/' 
Paul Krkhell laughed: "Paddy was sure moaning. "What can this 
guy do? J he yelled over the phone. Tie can't field, he can't hit his hat, 
he throws 'em where they ain't. Tell Barrow 1 got to get rid of him!' * 

Krichell was as adamant as Eel Barrow. "He'll hit," he told Paddy. 
"Just keep him in there/' 

Early in September, Gehrig's batting average was worse than ever and 
O'Connor had reached the bursting point There was a vital Lalwr Day 
series beginning on Saturday, and Lou had struck out three times the 
day before. That night, O'Connor sent a long telegram to Barrow stating 
how terrible Gehrig had been and asking permission to remove him 
from the lineup. 

It was one of the few times in his life that Lou got a break. Barrow 
didn't come into his Yankee office that Saturday. Paddy had to leave 
Gehrig in for the three-game series. That Saturday afternoon, Gehrig 
poled one over the fence to win the ball game. On Sunday, in a double 
header, he broke loose with tigerish fury and won both games almost 
singlehanded. He hit everything singles, doubles, triples, and home 

O'Connor called Barrow on Monday and told him to forget the wire, 
saying gleefully, "Gehrig has finally come out of the closet/ 1 lie pitched, 
played first base, and closed the year hitting ,304. Once he almost went 
over the ,500 mark. He wound up the season with 24 home runs In the 

There were good reasons why Lou Gehrig couldn't seem to get going 
the first time he was sent down to Hartford. He was lonely. He was 
worried about his folks. He was always broke. Harry Hesse was Lou's 
roommate at Hartford in 1923, the first baseball player to really get to 
know him. I was lucky enough to get an intimate word-picture of Geh- 
rig from Hesse. 

"I was playing first base when Lou came to Hartford/' Hesse recalled, 
"so they moved me into the outfield. I had been rooming with him For 
several days before I realized the guy didn't have a dime* Not a dime. 
After his father got over that operation, Lou sent them on the first va- 
cation they ever had. To do it, he had to strip himself down to nothing. 

"He didn't have money for clothes/* Hesse went on. "He looked like 
a tramp. When he was in that first slump, I've never seen anyone suf- 
fer so much. He took everything to heart* I le was a guy who needed 
friends, but didn't know how to go about getting them. He'd get low 
and sit hunched over and miserable and it was pretty tough to pull him 
out of it" 

After Gehrig climbed out of the doldrums and began to lambast the 


apple, liis attitude changed. Hesse got him a date with a girl and he 
thinks it was the first time Gehrig had ever been out with one of the 
opposite sex. He hardly spoke a word all evening and when the girl 
spoke to him, he would blush and fidget. 

One night Gehrig gave Hesse the scare of his life. One of the players 
on the ball club, a man almost as frightful in size and strength as Lou, 
tucked a few too many beers under his belt and began roaming around 
the hotel in a half-playful, half-belligerent mood. Hesse and Gehrig 
had just got into bed when the tipsy player busted into their room. 

"I could see he was looking for a tussle," Hesse said, "so I tucked 
my head under the covers and pretended 1 was asleep. The guy came 
over and jumped on top of Gehrig. Suddenly, it got awfully quiet. I 
rolled over, took a quick look, and froze. Lou's head was thrown back, 
his legs had a scissors grip around the guy's middle, and he was squeez- 
ing. The guy's face was blue. I let out a yell. Lou relaxed his legs and 
the guy rolled off the bed, out cold." 

It took 10 minutes to bring the player back to consciousness. Geh- 
rig was between tears and panic. He hadn't meant to hurt the guy; he'd 
just tried to keep him from getting too gay. "But if I hadn't yelled when 
I did/' Hesse said, "Gehrig might have crushed him to death/' 

During his early days in baseball, Gehrig was utterly naive, com- 
pletely unaware of his rights as a big-league ballplayer. When in trouble, 
or low in spirits, he would wander off like a wounded bear. Dan Daniel, 
the baseball writer who has chronicled so many splendid and revealing 
tales about the Gehrig personality, told me about meeting him one day 
in 1924 on a street in New Orleans* Gehrig who had come down to 
take Spring training with the Yankees, was, as usual, hatless and coat- 
less. He looked very glum. 

"What's the trouble, Lou 1 ?" Dan inquired, 

"Things are pretty tough, Dan/' Lou said, shaking his huge head. 
"I can't seem to find a job, not even washing dishes/' 

"A job!" the amazed Daniel said. "You belong to the Yankees; you're 
a ballplayer. You're not supposed to be looking for a job. If you're broke, 
go see Huggins/' 

"Oh, 1 couldn't clo that/' Gehrig said. 

And Gehrig wouldn't. Daniel went to Miller Huggins and told him 
about meeting Lou and what he'd said. Hug called Gehrig in, gave 
him a $100 advance, and told him to stop looking for outside work. 
During the interview, Huggins learned that Lou had arrived in New 
Orleans with exactly $iz and had been trying to get along on that 
amount for two weeks! 

On June i, 1925, Gehrig was sent in to pinch hit for Pee Wee Wan- 
nmger in the eighth inning of a game against the Senators. That day, 
officially, marked the beginning of the magnificent consecutive-game 

I 23 1 

record of the Yankee Iron Man. The following day, the veteran first- 
baseman, Wally Pipp, was struck on the side of the head during batting 
practice. In the locker room, Huggins saw Pipp swallowing a couple 
of aspirin tablets* 

"Take a rest today, Wally," Huggins said. 'Tm going to start young 
Gehrig in your spot" 

When the Yankee manager told Lou that he was going to start him 
in the game and, if he made good, keep him in there as a regular, Geh- 
no gulped and almost tossed his cookies. There were tears in his eyes 
as* he stumbled up the stairs to the dugout. Huggins was right behind 
him, saying, "Now take it easy, boy. Don't get rattled. If you muff a 
few, nobody's going to shoot you." 

Gehrig trotted slowly to first base, and thus began a magnificent 
career. He booted plenty of ground balls that year. Often he looked 
like an overgrown sandlot player around first base. But Hug kept him 
in the lineup. He stayed in there because at the plate he followed the 
pattern he established in that first game, connecting for a double and 
two singles and rivaling Ruth as a sparkplug for Yankee hitting sprees, 

"In the beginning, I used to make one terrible play a game/' Gehrig 
told Quentin Reynolds in 1935. 'Then I got so I'd make one a week, 
and finally I'd pull a bad one about once a month. Now, I'm trying to 
keep it down to one a season." 

Although the kids of the world never idolized Gehrig the way they 
did Babe Ruth, the kids of his hometown, New York, really loved him, 
Huggins always liked to tell about the time he caught Lou Gehrig in 
Central Park playing ball with, some teen-agers, after Lou had completed 
a grueling game with the Yanks, He had the love of the game that all 
great players have. He couldn't pass a diamond, and the crack of a bat y 
without wanting to get into die game. 

There was never any doubt in Gehrig's rnind that the Bam was the 
greatest home-run hitter of all time. In practice, he would often try to 
copy the Babe's swing, but this change in style caused him to miss the 
ball by a foot. In 1927, he told reporters, "The trouble with me is that 
I'm trying to be a home-run hitter like Babe. Now I'm going to forget 
those homers and just hit the ball." 

It was that year that Ruth reached the pinnacle, clouting the Big 60 
to Gehrig's 47. In the years that followed, baseball fans held their breath 
while these two fence busters battled it out for home-run honors. But 
year after year, it was almost as if Lou Gehrig were playing a previously 
rehearsed xole in winding up second to the Babe, 

Gehrig led the league in home runs in 1934 and 1936, For four 
seasons, he was runner-up in circuit clouts to the Bambino. Once, in 
1931, lie tied him with 46 four baggers. That year was a heart-breaker, 
for Gehrig deserved to win the home-ran title. A tanehead piece of 


business by Gehrig himself and another Yankee robbed him of the 

The Incident is referred to as the "home run that didn't count" Lyn 
Lary was on base when Gehrig teed off and hoisted one over the right- 
field barrier. For some inexplicable reason, Lary thought that the rival 
fielder had caught Lou's blast. Two were away, so Lyn left the base 
path as he rounded third and trotted into the Yankee bench. Lou trotted 
on around the bases, unthinkingly passing the spot where Lary had left 
the base path. This caused Lary to be ruled automatically out It ended 
the inning and crossed Gehrig's homer off the books. 

Manager McCarthy, as the newspapermen reported it at the time 
and Hubler records in his book on Gehrig, rose to heights of stinging 
sarcasm. "Gentlemen/* he purred, "Lary didn't know that Lou had hit a 
home run. Hereafter we will devise a set of signals so that all will know 
that a certain ball is tagged for a home ran." He paused. "I want no 
secrets on this team. 1 * 

Lou, at the time, never realized how much that home run would 
mean to him at the end of the season. On the last game of the year, in 
The House That Ruth Built, he was trailing the Babe by just one 
homer! That day he lifted one over the fence to close the books for the 
year and tie with Ruth for the championship. It was the closest he ever 
came to being the home-ran champion while the Babe was playing 
full time. Ruth led the league in home runs 10 times, Gehrig twice. 

la 1934, when Ruth was in Yankee uniform only occasionally, Geh- 
rig won his first home-run title, hitting 49. That same year, for the first 
and only time, he also won the American League batting championship 
with a .363 average. Before, he had been nosed out of this honor by a 
few points almost every year since coming into the majors. Again it was 
a "Last Da/* stand, fighting to the last ditch, that won him the cham- 
pionship. Trailing Charlie Gehringer up to the final game of the season, 
Lou got 3 for 4 in a game against the Senators, and just squeezed 

After Ruth left, Gehrig was appointed captain of the Yankees, He 
made heroic attempts to become a colorful, off-hand, likeable, and pop- 
ular character. But the glare of the spotlight which made Ruth glow 
and sparkle, only befuddled, confused, and made ludicrous the quiet 
and retiring Gehrig. 

He was voted the most valuable player of the American League four 
times, but nobody seemed to notice it. The records he was setting, like 
driving in the most runs of any player of his time, did not excite the 
Interest of many fans. The few times he stumbled into the national 
limelight, off the playing field, it was for things he'd done that made 
him look sad and ridiculous. 

There was that classic appearance on the radio, for which he was 


unceasingly ribbed by players and fans. The makers of a breakfast 
cereal named "Huskies" hired Lou for a one-shot air appearance to boost 
their product. Lou was Interviewed at great length about his career with 
the Yankees. Then the announcer led up to the pay-off line with: "Tell 
me, Lou, to what do you owe your tremendous hitting strength and 
fine condition?" 

The nervous Gehrig, not heeding the script, gulped and answered; 


It brought the house clown* Laughter shook the nation for weeks. 
That one, natural slip earned Lou the reputation of being one of the 
most complete dunces ever to enter the ranks of the celebrities, Lou 
felt wretched about his mistake. He even sent back the fee he had been 
paid for his appearance on the program. The breakfast food company 
wouldn't accept it, however, because the publicity, at Gehrig's expense, 
was worth a fortune. 

Gehrig followed that one up with a fling at the movies. While the 
sportswriters snickered, Lou's manager, Christy Walsh, posed the big 
fellow in a leopard skin and announced that he was going to replace 
Johnny Weissmuller as the new Tarzan, Lou took it all very seriously. 
The glamour of the movie business fascinated him* It looked like the 
quick way to become adored by millions. Wouldn't it be wonderful if 
a stodgy guy like himself could scale the heights of film stardom? 

This was the childhood dream. This was what he must have yearned 
for when he sat in the darkened movie theaters, a fat, little boy, a 
mediocrity, unnoticed and unloved. But he should have known that it 
was never in the books for him to spring to glory like a meteor. The 
Tarzan episode brought him only ridicule. In 1937, he did star in a horse 
opera called "Rawhide," which the movie critics panned and the fans 
ignored. The Yankee players and those on other teams rode him un- 
mercifully about his movie aspirations. He could only show them the 
twisted grin and shake his head. 

It Is somewhat ironic that one of the most successful motion pictures 
ever made, "Pride of the Yankees," was based on Lou Gehrig's life* fie 
would have been thrilled by that movie. It would have meant more to 
him than anything else in the world. He was an honest guy. He wanted 
and needed the love of the common people from whom he came. He 
yearned to be known and appreciated and remembered, 

In 1933, at the age of 30, Gehrig married Eleanor Twitchell, the 
warm-hearted, loyal, and wonderful woman who was to mean so much 
to him during the twilight of his life. She was the opposite of Lou a 
vivacious, brown-eyed, auburn-haired girl who had money and social 
position and a talent for being able to mix easily with people* When 
Lou met her, she was managing a large Chicago apartment house, 
which she owned. 


It took four years for the bashful Gehrig to reach the point, with her 
help, of stumbling through a proposal of marriage. He first met her at 
a party in Chicago in 1929. He sat with her for quite a long time, but 
could think of nothing to say. He met Eleanor again at a friend's house 
in 1932, Again he was tongue-tied. One night, many months later, he 
called her long distance and talked a little more easily. In 1933, Eleanor 
was visiting a friend on Long Island, and Lou began to drop in to see 
her. One night, shortly before she returned to Chicago, Eleanor guided 
him through the necessary words that constitute a proposal, 

"It began, 1 ' she related long after they were married, "with talk about 
baseball. Even when proposing, in stating his qualifications as a poten- 
tial husband, Lou spoke disparagingly of himself as a ballplayer. It 
finally got around to my asking him if what he was trying to say was 
that he wanted to marry me. He nodded his head, and told rne that was 
it. Then he kissed me and ran for the door." 

On the day the engagement was announced, Eleanor was in the 
stands watching Lou play. He hit a home run for her, and waved to 
her as he crossed the plate. It was one of the happiest days of his life 
and, for once, nothing jinxed, it. The fans and players and reporters 
were very decent about it. Nobody kidded him or made him feel un- 

The marriage was planned for the 3oth of September, but Lou 
couldn't face the thought of the formal ceremony that was being ar- 
ranged. The day before it was to come off, he talked Eleanor into call- 
ing in the mayor of New Rochelle and marrying them quietly. She 
agreed. They were married in the presence of a few friends and the 
carpenters and painters and decorators who had been hired to dress up 
the house for the big event. 

"Less than an hour after we were married, Lou was on his way to 
the Stadium to play baseball," Eleanor said. 

The Iron Horse continued to drive himself. His incredible record 
kept mounting. Hits crashed off his bat with machinelike regularity. 
When it was over, he had driven in close to 2,000 runs, made 2,721 hits, 
1,190 of them for extra bases! He had crossed the plate 1,888 times and 
poled 494 home runs. For eight years, he played in more games than any 
man in the league. In seven of those years, he drove in more than 150 

Perhaps Gehrig's greatest thrill, the one he talked the most about 
after his retirement, was the home run he hit off Dizzy Dean in the 1937 
All-Star game. It was quite a moment The steady, reliable, quiet, work- 
horse facing the most quixotic, brash, and colorful player since the days 
of Ruth, It was a pitiful and tragic afternoon for the Great Diz, the one 
in which he was struck by a line drive, the afternoon he wrenched that 
magnificent arm. Gehrig's smash into the right-field bleachers rang down 

[ 27] 

the curtain on the old fireballer. Lou seemed to have a knack of being 
around when tragedy struck. 

"Gehrig will go on forever," the sportswrltcrs said. "Short of being 
hit by a locomotive, nothing will stop him/* 

What stopped him was deadlier than any man-made machine. It was 
a tiny virus, so mysterious and elusive that it has not yet been seen by 
microbe hunters after centuries of search. One of the things that is 
known about it is that it usually attacks the strongest and healthiest of 
human beings. 

During the latter part of the 1938 season, the disease began to work 
on Gehrig, He began to lose his great strength, his tremendous energy 
and drive. Sometimes his hand would tremble as he held a coffee cup 
and he would drop it. On the baseball field, he would be overcome by 
lethargy. His coordinationthe thing he had worked so hard to learn 
would fail him. Only his great willpower enabled him to muster the 
energy to get through a game, 

"Please give yourself a rest, Lou/' his wife pleaded with him. "Your 
record is safe. You need a rest." 

Tve got to go on playing," he said. "I've got to work myself out of 

He went on, game after game, ashamed of the way he looked out 
there. He told Johnny Schulte that every time he went to bat, he felt 
that all the fans in the stands could hear him creak. 

What did Gehrig think of during the days when he began to falter? 
Of an era passed, of a time when Dempsey was the heavyweight cham- 
pion of the world, when the stock market was at its height, when names 
like Cobb, Meusel, Speaker, Grove, Combs were making sport head- 
lines, and the Babe and Buster were the two greatest batters in the 
world? Perhaps he thought, as he hit a miserable pop fly, of that clay 
in 1927 in Pittsburgh when little Miller Muggins, the wily strategist, 
had sent him and the Babe out to terrify the Pirates during batting 

"See how many balls you guys can put up there/* Hug had said, point- 
ing to the upper deck of the right-field bleachers. 

Ruth went up first and parked a half-dozea long drives in the upper 

"Okay, kid/' the Babe had beamed as the Pirates stood gaping in 
amazement, "Now show J em how you do it/* 

And he had gone up there and lammed five drives, landing them 
almost on the same seats where Ruth's had bounced. It Bad been so easy 
then. The eye was sharp, the muscles worked so smoothly, It had been 
hit, hit, hit, for over a decade. What was happening? 

Spring training in 1939 was a nightmare for Gehrig, The ball slipped 
out of his fingers or went through his wobbly legs* lie would swing 

I 28] 

with a superhuman effort, but even when he connected it would be a 
scraggly sort of pop fly. His feet began to drag. His legs would give way 
suddenly. A frightened look would come over his face. He'd look like 
a kid who had been unexpectedly slapped, 

The season opened with Gehrig still in the line-up. After a day at the 
park, he would come home looking weak, stunned. He was afraid, ter- 
ribly afraid* Eleanor, who had been pleading with him to quit so that 
they could find out what the trouble was, couldn't get through to him. 

"Sometimes he would break down and cry/' she said. "But he would 
be back at the ball park the next day, trying harder." 

The players on the Yankees suffered with him. One of them told how 
Lou, stooping over to tie his shoe one day before the game, fell flat on 
his face. Everyone pretended not to notice it. When he floundered 
around on the field, tripped over his own feet, fell down when walking 
to the plate to take his cut, they all felt his pain and embarrassment and 
shriveled up inside. Manager Joe McCarthy didn't take him out of the 
line-up. He knew that would really break Lou, He knew, and the play- 
ers knew, that they were witnessing a terrible private contest 

He played eight games in 1939. He hit safely four times measly 
clouts that took more effort than the longest homer he had ever made, 
His average was .143. 

Gehrig played his last game against the Washington Senators on 
April 30, 1939, On May 2, he stopped Manager McCarthy in the lobby 
of a Detroit hotel He had been waiting for over an hour. His face was 
pale, his hands shook, but he got the grin up. 

"You'd better take me out, Joe," he said. "I guess that's all." 

That afternoon in Briggs Stadium Babe Dahlgren was at first base for 
the Yankees. An epic had ended. An immortal had stepped down. Sports- 
writers on copy desks across the country, men in small towns who had 
never even seen him play, read the wire services release and felt a lump 
in their throats, 

2,130 consecutive games. It wasn't possible to laugh off that perform- 
ance. You couldn't see a record like that one crumble without feeling 
something inside. 

Lefty Gomez, who had enjoyed kidding him over the years, whose 
wisecracks had sometimes been barbed, sat down on the bench beside 
him that afternoon, "Hell, Lou," he said gruffly, putting an arm around 
Gehrig's shoulder, "it took 1 5 years to get you out of the game. Some- 
times I'm out in 1 5 minutes." 

That June, on his thirty-sixth birthday, Lou left the Mayo Clinic 
where he had gone for an examination. He was given a sealed envelope 
containing X-ray pictures and a diagnosis of his disease. The official 
Mayo report read: 

"He Is suffering from amyotcophic lateral sclerosis. This type of illness 


involves the motor pathways and cells of the central nervous system and 
in lay terms is known as a form of chronic poliomyelitis (infantile paraly- 
sis)* The nature of this trouble makes it such that Mr, Gehrig will be 
unable to continue his active participation as a baseball player. . . . n 

It also meant that he had only two or three years to live. Gehrig was 
never told this. His wife zealously kept this knowledge from him to flic 

Lou returned to the Yankees, As the captain of the team, he walked 
to the plate before every game and handed the umpire the line-up. The 
applause of the fans was thunderous. For the first time, he was able to 
realize the extent of his achievements. I le was deeply moved and ex- 
tremely grateful "In his own way," his wife said, "he was happy, 11 

The Yanks voted Lou a share of their 1939 World Series money. It 
was about the only time in his life that Lou Gehrig got something for 
which he had not worked hard. But that's probably putting it wrong, 
Sitting on the bench during that World Series was probably the hardot 
job of his life. 

In December, 1939, the Baseball Writers of America waived the rul- 
ing that a baseball player must be out of play for a year before he am 
be eligible for baseball's Hall of Fame* They voted Lou Gehrig a perma- 
nent spot at Cooperstown. 

They knew how short his time was. They wanted to do what they 
could for him before he died. 

The last time this writer saw Lou Gehrig alive was at his Centre 
Street office when Lou was doing a job as a member of Mayor La- 
Guardians New York City Parole Commission, lie was friendly and 
cheerful, He talked about baseball as though he were still playing It 
He was enthusiastic about the work he was doing* He understood ami 
had deep compassion for those who, like himself, had grown up in 
squalor and poverty. He knew the cause of most crimes. Few men so 
well understood frustration and loneliness and deprivation. 

He was a man who believed in working for everything he got He 
could have taken the hundreds of offers that came in, of cushy jobs at 
fancy salaries. He was paid $5,700 a year as a Parole Commissioner and 
he took it only after three months or study had convinced him that he 
could do some good on the job, 

He stayed behind his desk until he was helpless, until he couldn't 
move his hands. His voice, if you happen ever to have spoken to him 
and remember it, was always very gentle and soft It became softer. 

Late in 1940^ it became impossible for him even to move around, and 
he had to give up his position. He remained at his home in Riverdale, 
where his wife read to him by the hour, because he could no longer 
hold a book in his hands. He was humorous and sheepish alx>ut it 
There was almost no self-pity, but now and then he would smile wist- 

f 30 I 

fully and remark to his wife, "I wonder what the guys at the ball park 
would think of me now." 

Sometimes, in the night, he thought he could hear the voices of his 
childhood the shouts of Tony, Goose and the rest of the gang who went 
clamming with him on the mudflats, or swam with him off the docks 
on the river, or played hall with him on the steaming streets of the city. 

When you live life slowly and carefully, if you are a silent and ob- 
servant child, you can remember 'way back almost to the beginning. 

The way his life ended was so different from the way it had begun. 
The childish eyes had seen only drabness and want. Now the gay, the 
wise, the wealthy, the flashy, the brilliant and talented citizens of the 
land came to his house* As life began to flow out of him, his wife, 
Eleanor, did all she could to keep him amused and unaware of the fact 
that the game would soon be called because of darkness. 

Famous Broadway stars, sports people, comedians, magicians, and 
song writers moved through the Gehrig home, Eleanor entertained 
feverishly. She gave cocktail parties and buffet suppers. Friends crowded 
into Lou's room, sat on his bed, on chairs, on the floor, told stories, sang 
songs, pulled gags, and kept him company all through his waking hours. 

'The house was like a circus," Eleanor Gehrig said, "but they were 
all welcome. I wanted to keep Lou busy, and I wanted to keep him en- 
tertained. All the activity kept me from thinking too." 

During the clamor and gayety and slapstick antics, Lou would some- 
times catch Eleanor's eye and his mouth would twist into the shy grin. 
His eyes were calm; his face, when not showing pain, was cheerful. His 
wife is still certain that he did not know he was going to die. Of course, 
nobody told him. But suppose he had known? Was there anything that 
could be said? He was not a guy who knew how to put emotion into 
words, unless it involved something that would help others. 

By the end of May, in 1941, he became too ill to see his friends. On 
the morning of June 2, he passed Into a coma. At 10 o'clock that night, 
the big body was lifeless. 

It had been a beautiful, cloudless day, perfect baseball weather. But 
Yankee Stadium was empty and silent all that afternoon. Lou Gehrigfs 
team was out in Cleveland playing a hard-fought, thrill-packed game 
against the Indians, Bobby Feller was on the mound against them and 
they lost the game, 7-5. Late that night, the Yankees learned they had 
lost more than a ball game. 

Crowds gathered that week on a New York street to pay tribute to 
Jjou Gehrig. Gangs of kids were clustered on the sidewalk in front of 
the funeral parlor, A long, black limousine pulled up and Babe Ruth 
climbed out As always, the kids rushed the Babe, begging for auto- 
graphs. For once in his life, the Babe shook his head, brushed by them, 
and went inside to have his final look at another "kid" who had 


once shared some very special and very wonderful days with him. 

Christina Gehrig was there. She had outlived all of her children, even 
the one who had grown up to become so strong and famous. 

What is there, finally, to say about Lou Gehrig, Christina's son? That 
he was a remarkable baseball player, an incredible performer in so many 
World Series? He was more than that fie was simply a very ordinary, 
good human being, a man whose only inheritance was unusual physical 
strength, a capacity for hard work, a willingness to sacrifice and learn. 

Lou Gehrig was a baseball player who lived in a hard and crass era. 
But he became immortal because somehow he managed to touch and 
soften the heart of everyone who heard his name. 

I 32] 

My Ed 

WHAT kind of a guy Is Ted Williams? Brother, all I can say is 
lie can play on my team any day in the week. Did] a ever see 
that guy hit? I'm tellin* ya, he ain't human. They say he's got 
camera eyes, and I'm willin* to believe it* I seen him in that All-Star 
game you know, when he got them two homers and two singles* That 
was the day he belted one off Rip Sewell's blooper. Happy? He laughed 
all the way around the bases. He's another Babe Ruth, that kid. 

What kind of a guy is Ted Williams? Listen, Mac, when bigger jerks 
are made, I don't want any part of them* That guy's nuts. He oughta 
be put away. Sure, I know he can hit. But only when he feels like it 
And did you ever see the bum in the field"? He couldn't catch a ball 
with a bushel basket. And what's more, I hear the other guys on the 
club hate his guts. I guess he thinks he's too good for them or some- 
thing. All I know is if I was Yawkey I'd can the bum. He'd never play 
ball for me. 

* * X 

This is an attempt at an honest report on the most controversial base- 
ball figure of our time, Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox* It's a 
report a lot of people may not like because most fans already have 
formed violent opinions of their own about the Boston slugger. And 
this is neither a pro- Williams nor an anti-Williams article. 

I approached this assignment with an open mind. I had never met 
Ted Williams. All I knew about him was what I'd read in the news- 
papers and I've known for a long time that it doesn't pay to believe 
everything you read in the papers* I had, of course, seen him play, many 
times. Sometimes I admired what I saw him do on the field; other times 
I was unimpressed. 

So I started from scratch. First I read all the books and articles I 
find that contained material on Ted. Then I invaded newspaper 

f 33 J 

morgues, poring over stacks of clippings about his career. I studied 
record books, publicity handouts, and baseball trade publications, soak- 
ing up information about things he'd done and things he'd said, 

Then I stuffed my pockets with blank sheets of paper and started 
talking to people, I went to Boston and talked to the Red Sox official 
family. I talked to the guys who ran the elevators and sold newspapers 
and tended bar in Boston's old Copley Plaza Hotel I talked to cops, 
taxi-drivers, and shoe-shine boys around town* I talked to Johnny 
Orlando, the Red Sox clubhouse boy. I talked to newspapermen and 
I talked to fans, I asked them all what they thought of Ted Williams 
and I collected such a bewildering variety of answers that for a while 
I thought I was worse off than when I started. 

Then I took a week off. I dropped the story completely. I'd been so 
close to it for so long, I was afraid maybe I couldn't see the forest for 
the trees. Then I picked up my notes and went over the whole business 
again and suddenly I began to see things weren't as confused as I 
feared. When I looked at what I had objectively, without passion, I 
realized I could stop trying to make up my mind whether this com- 
plex character was a hero or a heel I saw, suddenly, just what the real 
story of Ted Williams was, 

It takes a lot of telling because there's a lot to teli The long, lean, 
30-year-old athlete who wallops baseballs out of the ball park in ex- 
change for a pay check of approximately $75,000 from the Boston Red 
Sox is one of the most fascinating characters in American sport. It's 
possible to love, or at least admire, him, and it's equally possible to 
hate, or at least dislike, him. The problem, therefore, is why? 

To make the two definite sides of the Ted Williams story easier to 
follow, I propose to take up his case the way you might take it wpin a 
court of justice, with the prosecution or anti-Williamsside first. Then 
well hear from the defense or pro-Williamsside. After that^ well look 
at the guy himself and see if we can figure out what it all adds up to. 

Briefly, here's the case for die prosecution: 

Ted, who is known as The Kid in Boston, has never grown up. lie 
is subject to childish fits of temper and is inconsistent in such depart- 
ments as good humor, cooperation, and perseverance* At least three times 
he's been yanked from ball games by Joe Cronin for offenses like failing 
to ran out an infield hit, loafing after fly balls, and swinging half-heart- 
edly at pitches when he was in one of his frequent tizzies. He has never 
shown himself able to take adversity like a man. He invariably yaps 
back at any fan who has the nerve to criticize his not-always-flawless 

The ancient right of the customer to beef at the performer is as much 
a part of baseball as the three-strike rale. Terrible Ted ? however, does 
not recognize this right He has of tea demonstrated that he would like 


to have it changed so that any jeering fan would be hauled out of his 
seat, given two in the chops, and dragged off to the pokey. 

Needless to say, many fans disagree violently with Ted's viewpoint 
For instance, Curt Noyes of Marblehead, Massachusetts, wrote a letter 
to Dave Egan, sports editor of the Boston Record, which said in part: 

"Williams, the all-time, All-Ainerican adolescent, will never wear a 
necktie, unless he wears it to bed. Hell never tip his cap to the guys 
who pay his overstuffed salary* Hell never bunt, steal, hustle, or take a 
sign . . . unless it suits his own royal convenience. In short, hell con- 
tinue to be just what he's always been . - , die prize heel ever to wear 
a Boston uniform . . " 

Egan, himself, the stormy petrel of Boston's sportswriters (and that's 
saying a lot, because the journalists in that town are not renowned for 
their gentle nature), has for a long time campaigned to get Williams out 
of the Hub. Blunt, plain-talking Dave thinks the lanky kid from San 
Diego does the Red Sox more harm than good, even if he does swing a 
mean bat. 

Unquestionably, thousands of Boston fans agree with Egan. Many of 
them like Ted, of course. But an awful lot of them would just as soon 
spit in his eye as shake his hand. This troubles The Thumper not at all 
'Damned New England buzzards," is one of the more polite phrases he 
has used to describe the paying customers. 

It's not easy to find out exactly what relations prevail between Ted 
and his teammates. After careful investigation, I reached the conclusion 
that it's like everything else about the guy a litde of this and a little 
of that. Some of the players like him fine, some of them think he's a 
little unusual but all right, and some of them would like to kick him 
in the pants. 

I talked to a couple of Red Sox ballplayers about Ted, but they were 
understandably reluctant to say much. That is, except the ones who 
liked him. The others changed the subject One of them though, who 
for obvious reasons will have to remain anonymous, admitted there are 
plenty of guys on the club who could do without Williams very well 

You get nowhere, of course, pursuing this line of questioning with 
the Red Sox officials. It is impossible to guess whether they really mean 
it or not, but they all religiously follow the party line. Williams, they 
will have you know, is not only the greatest ballplayer of his generation, 
but also the greatest guy you'd ever want to meet. He has no faults. He's 
just misunderstood. The writers pick on him. He loves everybody, and 
everybody loves him. 

There may be some truth in all that, but for my dough it's mixed up 
with a hell of a lot of hogwash. The most charitable explanation I can 
see for the party line is that it Sterns from over-enthusiasm blended with 
a natural <ksire to look after one's investments, 


When Ted first hit a Red Sox training camp, he picked up a reputa- 
tion as a "fresh guy" that he's never been able to shake. You know the 
stories that are told about his antics in that Spring of 1938. He's sup- 
posed to have run into Bobby Doerr, a friend of his from the Pacific 
Coast League. 

'Wait till you see this guy Foxx hit!" Doerr raided, 

'Wait till Foxx sees me hid'* bragged Williams. 

That kind of stuff follows a guy around. The first thing he knows, 
the boys are lying in wait for him, baiting him, encouraging him to say 
something even funnier. And all the time they're going around spread- 
in^ the word that he's a clown, and it isn't doing his reputation any 
good. That's part of what happened to Ted Williams. But it's only part 
of it. Most of the Williams legend was hand-tailored by Teddy himself. 

The fireman story, for instance. Back in 1940, Ted visited an uncle 
of his who was a fireman in Mount Vcrnon, New York, I !e must have 
liked what he saw because a few days later he petulantly complained 
to a reporter that he'd a lot rather be a fireman than a ballplayer. Of 
course, he didn't really mean it It was just that his fireman-uncle had 
been lounging comfortably in the sun in front of the firehouse when 
Ted saw him, and Ted who was having his troubles getting a hit in 
a series at Yankee Stadium thought it looked like an ideal existence. 

Like so many other things he has said or done impulsively, Ted lived 
to regret the fireman crack* Jimmy Dykes, the fun-loving manager of 
the Chicago White Sox (now coaching for the Philadelphia Athletics), 
went to work on him with a vengeance* When the Red Sox visited 
Chicago, Dykes outfitted his bench jockeys with fire helmets and rain- 
coats, and equipped them with a loud siren which they operated gleefully 
every time Williams came to bat 

A story that reflects the opinions of some of the Red Sox players about 
their big star concerns a day the Boston club was playing the Athletics 
at Shibe Park in Philadelphia* Ted was one of the first Boston players 
to walk into the dugout before the game* Dom DiMagglo, Bobby Doerr, 
and Johnny Pesky were with him. DiMag, Doerr, and Pesky jumped 
out on the playing field and were greeted by a friendly chorus of cheers* 
Seconds later, Williams stuck his head above the dugout* steps* The 
house shook under the impact of a barrage of sincere boos* 

Said a Red Sox player sitting on the bench: "That's an excellent ex- 
ample of die early worm catching the bird/' 

Tasked the Boston front office for some help in locating Ted a couple 
of months ago. "Well/' I was told, "he's either in Princeton, Minnesota, 
which is his wife's hometown; the Black Hills of South Dakota; or 
Florida. At least, probably he is." 

Which gives you a reasonably clear idea of the degree of responsIbH- 
ity Ted feels toward his ball club. The Red Sox pay him lavishly for 

I 36] 

working six months out of the year, but he doesn't think it's necessary 
(or even advisable) to let them know where he is at any given time* 

Few of his fans thought any more highly of Ted when it became 
known that the great man went fishing in Florida while his wife jour- 
neyed to Boston to await the birth of their first child in the early part 
of 1948. 

The fans and writers who were dismayed by Ted's un-patexnal be- 
havior while his wife was awaiting their child grew really harsh in their 
judgments when the Williams baby, a daughter named Barbara Joyce, 
was born prematurely on Wednesday, January 28 with Ted still in 
Florida! Even the more charitable observers shook their heads and said: 
"You'd think he could have interrupted his vacation long enough to be 
around when the kid was born!" 

Not since the Sacco-Vanzetti case has Boston been rocked so severely 
by a single controversy. Well, not since Forever Amber was banned 
there, anyway, 

Harold Kaese, writing in the Boston Globe, said: "Everybody knows 
where Moses was when the lights went out, and apparently everybody 
knows where Ted Williams was when his baby was born here yester- 
day. He was fishing," 

Instantly leaping to Ted's defense, the Red Sox front office insisted 
the baby wasn't due until February 15, that Ted had planned to fly 
to Boston on February 5 to be on hand for the big event, and that it was 
a tough break for him when the child was born almost a month ahead 
of time. 

The young woman most concerned about it all seemed the least con- 
cerned. Doris Williams, interviewed at the hospital, was as happy as 
any young mother. 

"She has Ted's eyes and my mouth," she told reporters, "but she really 
doesn't look like anybody yet" 

Mrs* Williams confirmed the club's statement that the baby hadn't 
been expected until February 15, Just the same, the incident didn't make 
Ted look any better in the eyes of his fans. 

Informed of the public's reaction when he finally arrived in Boston 
to see his wife and new-born child, Ted growled: "To hell with the 
public. They can't run my life/' He told reporters he planned to visit 
briefly with his wife and daughter, then return to Miami because "this 
place is too cold for me, and besides, the fishing is great down there," 

Writing about the mighty macer's odd behavior, Paul Gallico said 
sternly: "You are not a nice fellow, Brother Williams, I do believe that 
baseball and the sports pages would be better off without you. 

"Where you are wrong in saying that the public cannot run your life 
is that we can. For I am a part of that public and I would no longer 
invest ten cents to see you ply your trade because I have an aversion 

[37 ] 

to finding myself in the same inclosure with a self-confessed mucker/" 

Then Paul let go with his high, hard one. *When, oh when will you 
thick-headed athletes catch on that the public is your darling, that you 
may not disillusion us, that you cannot live as other men but dwell in 
glass houses and that this is the price you pay for wealth and success?" 

Williams has a positive genius for getting into situations. In his first 
years with the Red Sox, he got into trouble not only with the fans, but 
even with the law, for persistently shooting the pigeons which nest in 
all the nooks and crannies of Fenway Park. 

Decidedly not on the good side is Ted's conspicuous coolness to rival 
stars on his own team. Boston writers noticed that Williams was any- 
thing but encouraging toward little Johnny Pesky when the sharp-hit- 
ting shortstop was pressing him for the club's batting leadership in 1942* 

It may not mean much to the average fan, but most sportswriters 
agree that Ted's unwillingness to cooperate even a little bit with the 
press detracts from his value to the Red Sox. One Boston writer told 
me he went into die club's dressing room with a few of his colleagues 
one day when Ted was in a batting slump, hoping to interview the 
slugger. When the request was conveyed to Ted, his prompt and gra- 
cious reply was: "Throw them out!' 

The editors of SPORT Magazine learned something about Ted*s un- 
reliability last year when they tossed a large luncheon for advertising 
executives in Beantown* A Boston representative of the magazine got 
in touch with Sergeant John Blake or the Massachusetts State Police* 
who is one of Teas closest buddies. Sergeant Blake was asked if he 
thought Williams could be coaxed into making an appearance at the 

"I don't know, 1 ' he said. "But 111 ask him." 

Subsequently the sergeant called the magazine representative and 
told him it was okay, Ted would be there. Sergeant Blake explained 
that Williams had to go to a baseball dinner that night, but he would 
come to the luncheon as well. Everyone thought it was mighty co- 
operative of Ted. 

It would have been, too, except that he didn't show up, 

There were about 800 important Boston businessmen at the lunch- 
eon, all of them expecting to see and maybe hear the great Ted Wil- 
liams. Almost any responsible person would have notified the people in 
charge that he couldn't make it. But not Ted Williams. He just didn't 
bother to go. Nobody, of course, ever has accused Ted of being a respon- 
sible person. 

If you're a Ted Williams fan, you may chuckle at such stories and 
say, 'Well, the kid's a litde eccentric, but he doesn't mean any hatm." 
The trouble is, when he insults the customers, alienates the reporters 
who publicize the games, and allows his fractious disposition to inter- 


fere with the efficiency of his play, he's giving neither the Red Sox nor 
the fans full value for their dough* 

I found Ted's part-time business manager, Freddie Corcoran, of the 
PGA, extremely friendly but he wouldn't give out any information 
covering the interesting parts of Ted's life. 

"He doesn't like to get into anything at all controversial," Corcoran 
said, "Hell be glad to talk about the Boudreau Shift, and how it's hard 
for a right-field hitter to try pushing them into left. And he'll talk about 
Joe McCarthy, and how he's always had a lot of respect for Joe, for 
whom he once played on an Ail-Star team. But nothing personal, you 

And, of course, it was only the personal stuff I wanted* All the rest 
of it the averages and the home-run totals and the runs-batted-in you 
can, find in the record books. But youll never find the answer to the 
riddle of Ted Williams in anybody's record book and finding that 
answer was the only thing that interested me. 

Corcoran couldn't help me get in touch with Ted's wife, either. 'Ted 
wouldn't like that," he said* "He wouldn't like that at all * , ." 

Shifting now to the defense, we find that the witnesses here all feel 
just as strongly about Ted as those who enjoy taking pot shots at The 
Kid. But that's the only common ground shared by the pro-Williams 
and anti- Williams camps. 

Sam Mele, who plays in the Boston outfield with Ted, looked around 
the neat brick interior of Toots Shor's and gave his roast beef hash a 
few minutes to settle while he thought about what to tell me. 

"It's hard to say just what I feel about Ted," Sam said. "He's done so 
many nice things for me. He's gone out of his way to help me, to give 
me tips, to make me feel at home on the club. Things he didn't have 
to do. He's a great guy. No kiddin', I love him." 

Sam was scornful of the oft-repeated story that Ted refused to associ- 
ate with his teammates off the field. "Well," he said, "all I know is he's 
had me up to his place for dinner a lot during the season. And I went 
to the fights with him and his wife, not only in Boston, but in Sarasota, 
too, during Spring training, I had fun with them. They're swell people/' 

Sam reported mat when he was a rookie, first up with the Red Sox, 
he was in the batting cage taking a few cuts at the ball when tie was 
bawled out by Al Simmons. Mele had been fouling off a lot of pitches, 
so he was staying in there until he hit his quota of fair balls. But Sim- 
mons, waiting to hit next, got impatient. 

"Hey!" he yelled. "You gonna stay in there all day?" 

Williams, waiting behind Simmons, strode up to the cage and called 
in to Sam: "Stay right in there, kid. Hit all you're supposed to hitP 

That doesn't sound like the action of a selfish jerk with a king com- 
plex, does it? 


You should hear Johnny Orlando, who takes care of the Boston club's 
equipment, on the subject of Ted Williams, Johnny is sold on Ted 
with a capital S, 

Orlando has been around Fenway Park since 1925, so he's seen a lot 
of them come and go. "I was bat boy for the Sox/* he told me, "when 
Eddie Collins was playing second base for Chicago, and 1 was here 
when Joe Cronin was the Washington shortstop/' 

Johnny thinks Ted Williams is not only the greatest guy who ever 
played ball, but one of the most misunderstood persons who ever walked 
the face of the earth. He has nothing but contempt for the way news- 
paper reporters criticize the slugger from San Diego. 

"It ain't that he don't want to be friendly," Johnny explained. "It's 
just that he hates front-runners. He don't like people who run up and 
make a big fuss over him when he's clone something good. Now, take 
me, I never shook his hand once after he hit a home run. Never once, 
He don't need it then. It's after he goes oh-for-five that I talk to him. 
That's when he needs it, not when he's doin* good. But a lot of people 
don't understand that," 

Johnny, who is no raw youngster and who unquestionably knows the 
score, insists that underneath his sometimes brash exterior Ted is essen- 
tially a shy guy, "fie don't hang out with the big shots, like some guys 
do. He hangs out with the kids in the clubhouse, with cops, firemen, 
and taxi-drivers* You know, the plain people. That's the kind of people 
he likes. On the road, he eats most of his meals in his room Ixteause he 
don't like to have everybody making a fuss over him in the dining nx>m/' 

It's a cinch Johnny knows Ted well* He pals around with the cele- 
brated slugger about 90 percent of the time. The two are fast friends. 
And when you listen to this hard-working guy talk about Williams, you 
can see genuine devotion in his eyes. To him, Ted can do no wrong, 

"When he first came here/* said Johnny, "he used to take a bunch of 
us clubhouse boys out fishing. He'd hire a boat and the crew, all the 
tackle, and lay in sandwiches and stuff for the whole gang* Must have 
cost him three or four hundred dollars. And you didn't see him calling 
up the newspapers to come and take pictures, cither." 

Johnny runs out of adjectives when he tries to tell you how generous 
Ted is with money* Searching for the right way to say what he meant, 
Orlando told me: "All I can say is, he gave money before he got in the 
money/' Which says a great deal. 

As most baseball fans know by now, Williams handed Johnny a mod- 
est tip of $2,500 after the Red Sox lost the 1946 World Scries to the 
St. Louis Cardinals. And each Boston player's cut in that Series was 
exactly $2,077.06! (I mention that, by the way, not to discredit Orlando^ 
testimony, but rather to prove the accuracy of what he says*) 

Tom Dowd, the good-natured traveling secretary of the Red Sox, has 


nothing but praise for the Splendid Splinter both as a ballplayer and 
as a man, 

"In the years I've taken this club on the road," says Dowd, "he's never 
objected to his room location, never been critical of his rail space, 
though it's true he always get a lower, and never offered any com- 
plaints at all about the way he's treated. If a guy is a priina donna, which 
is the rap the newspapers try to hang on Williams, this is where it 
usually shows up. Lots of guys behave themselves in public but act up 
something fierce when they're out of the limelight, I found that Wil- 
liams is always easy to get along with." 

It seemed to me that Tom had his finger on something important 
when he said the writers who are critical of Ted simply refuse to allow 
him the frailties of ordinary human beings. "Other people can pop off, 
or throw things when they get angry/* Tom pointed out, "and it's okay. 
But let Williams show the slightest sign of temper, and they pounce 
on him/' Dowd may have something there. 

"I've never known him to utter any bitterness toward a fellow player 
or toward any other player in the league/' said Tom. "There's not an 
ounce of braggadocio about him. He even walks with his head down, 
looking at the sidewalk." 

Dowd undertook to straighten me out on one point which had inter- 
ested me particularly. Whenever I talked to a hotly pro-Williams man, 
I wondered how he'd explain Ted's absence from the victory party the 
Red Sox staged in Cleveland the night they clinched the American 
League championship in September, 1946. That seemed to me to be a 
clear-cut indication that Ted leans toward the anti-social side. 

The Red Sox, you'll remember, were breezing home to their first pen- 
nant in 28 years. For a while it looked as though they'd nail down the 
flag as early as September 6 or 7, but the club ran into an unaccount- 
able bad streak* Washington beat the Sox once, and the Athletics put 
the boot to them twice. 

Undisturbed, the Bostonians headed for Detroit, where they were cer- 
tain they'd clinch the pennant Tom Yawkey made elaborate plans for 
a big victory party there. Dowd was ordered to put a stack of cham- 
pagne on ice and hold it in readiness, which he did. But the Red Sox 
promptly lost two straight to the Tigers. It was getting embarrassing. 

It got more embarrassing when the boys moved to Cleveland and had 
their ears pinned back by Rapid Robert Feller. That made it six in a 
row on the losing side and the champagne was still on ice* Tom 
Yawkey was traveling with the club, itching to throw the big binge, 
and he was getting more impatient every day. 

The suspense ended finally on Friday, September 13, when the Red 
Sox spilled the Indians, x~o> on a Ted Williams home run. The homer 
was hit to left field against the Lou Boudreau Shift, sailing safely over 

Pat Seerey's head into the undefended territory where Ted wasn't sup- 
posed to hit. That afternoon, the Yanks licked second-place Detroit, and 
the Sox were in. 

Actually, the Boston boys had to huddle by their radios for a couple 
of hours before they knew they had the flag. The Yankee-Tiger game 
started later than the game in Cleveland. But when the final out was 
made at Detroit, the lid was off for the Red Sox. It was a joyous occasion 
for them, and the champagne started to How at a party hastily arranged 
in the Hotel Statler by Secretary Dowd, The only trouble with the party 
was that Williams didn't show, 

Dowd exxplains this by saying the interval between the finish of the 
Boston-Cleveland game, and the finish of the New York-Detroit game, 
left time for the Red Sox to scatter. It was, he points out, a tough job to 
round them all up for the party. "I couldn't find Pesky until seven 
o'clock/' he told me, "and I wasn't able to get Williams at all. I !e was 
visiting some old fishing friends, and 1 didn't locate him until he re- 
turned to the hotel that night to go to bed." 

That's Dowd's story, and he ought to know. But there are other stories, 
too many of them not to make a dispassionate observer wonder a little, 
For instance, it was reported at the time that Ted was visiting a hospital. 
And it has been said by reliable newspapermen that Ted was still in the 
Hotel Statlerand very much aware of what was going on- when the 
word came that the Red Sox were in. Certainly it would not require 
much deduction for him to assume there would be a party that night, 

No matter how "the defense*' explains the story of the victory party, 
it's hard to make it come out to Williams* credit. After all* the lied Sox 
had carted that champagne around for almost a week. It was no secret 
to Williams that a big bust was scheduled for the hour the pennant was 
won. The casual observer cannot help but feel he didn't try very hard 
to get there. In fact, it's hard to disagree with the people who insist he 
tried very hard not to be there* 

Ed Doherty, who used to be publicity director of the Red Sox and 
now runs their farm, club at Scranton, Pennsylvania, m the Eastern 
League, told me some interesting stuff about Ted. Ed> who had some- 
thing to do with getting Williams into the Navy (from which he trans- 
ferred to the Marine Corps after winning his wings), says; M I like the 
perseverance of the kid/' Which is interesting, because a lot of people 
don't think Teddy is much of a hand at persevering* 

Doherty points out that Ted had the benefit of only two years in high 
school as far as education was concerned. Yet he was able to win a com- 
mission in Naval Aviation* 'Tie did it by hitting the books like mad/* 
says Doherty. "He went to school at night after ball games back in 1942, 
and he didn't play ball in the service because he had to work like Jbeli 
to make the grade. 1 ' 

f } 

It was to Doherty that Ted made his famous statement: "I don't see 
that hitting .400 is so hot. It's only four out of ten. You work for 
Yawkey, too. You do four out of ten jobs right, and you're out in the 
street on your tail I do four out of ten jobs right, and Fm a great hitter." 

Doherty told me, "I know all about the stories they tell blasting Wil- 
liams, but on the level I think he's a great kid. The newspapers brought 
this thing on themselves." 

By "this thing" Doherty meant the hard-to-handle reputation that has 
been draped around the Boston Beauty. Ed compared the newspaper 
treatment .of Williams to the way the scribes used to go to work on Lefty 
Grove, "It's the same situation," he insisted. "It took Grove a dozen years 
longer to mellow than It would have if the baseball writers had left him 

There may be a lot to be said for Doherty's point of view. Certainly it 
is shared by many another competent observer. But it's difficult to prove 
that a writer is guilty of any moral crime or is even off base when he 
hasn't done anything but tell what happened. 

Sure, the writers whooped it up in the public prints when Ted first 
showed signs of what may charitably be described as an unusual person- 
ality. What else could they be expected to do? News is where you find 
it and nobody would read the sports pages if the boys never wrote about 
any but well-behaved athletes. 

It is, however, unfortunate that Ted got in bad with the typewriter 
brigade at the very start of his career, A collision like that leaves lasting 
effects. Because all sportswriters have been accustomed to think of Wil- 
liams as a pouting schoolboy, they instinctively think the worst when- 
ever he becomes involved in any new incident. 

For example, I noticed that one famous writer waxed poetic in print 
over the sad lot of Joe DiMaggio, who has to hang around the clubhouse 
for two or three hours after every game lest the autograph hounds tear 
the poor guy limb from limb. 

And then I read the Indignant, sizzling prose of another accredited 
critic who stormed in print that Ted Williams was an arrogant, spoiled 
so-and-so who would sit in the clubhouse for hours after a game rather 
than do his bounden duty by the cute little tykes hanging around out- 
side with their pads and pencils. You'd think what's good for the goose 
would be good for the gander, but it ain't necessarily so. 

How can smart baseball people hold stubbornly to such opposite view- 
points on Ted Williams? How is it possible for one man to tell you ve- 
hemently that he's a no-good bum who should be dunked in the nearest 
lake, and the next man to argue just as passionately that he's the greatest 
hitter and the greatest guy baseball has ever known, adding bitterly that 
thepoor kid is just misunderstood? 

Tnatfs the big Williams question, and it took a lot of soul-searching 

[43 } 

before I finally arrived at a satisfactory answer. My answer is that both 
men are right. 

the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, 
when he Is good he is very, very good, and when he is bad, lie is horrid. 

Believe me, a practicing psychiatrist would have a field da}- probing 
into the subconscious of Ted Williams* The Kid, who, as Milton Gross 
once wrote, has done everything in baseball but grow up, is the victim of 
an oppressing sense of insecurity, a terrific inferiority complex, and a 
basic distrust of his fellow men. 

All of which is undoubtedly an outgrowth of his unhappy, insecure 
childhood. Ted Williams is, as any working sportswritcr will tell you, 
one of the hardest guys in the business to interview no matter what you 
want to talk to him about But if you try to get him to tell you anything 
about his background, that's when hell clam up on you for keeps, 
Which, when you think it over, is interesting in itself. 

Ted's mother, Mis. May Williams, is an ardent Salvation Army 
worker in San Diego* Up and down the Southern California coast she's 
known as "Salvation May/' "The Sweetheart of San Diego," and "The 
Angel of Tia Juana." As single-minded about her religious work as her 
famous son is about his hitting, she is proud of her reputation for being 
able to force her way into any kind of an establishment in behalf of the 
Salvation Army, and she has laid claim to the world record for selling 
the Salvation Army newspaper, War Cry* 

I didn't get a chance to go to San Diego to see her, but my friend and 
colleague Hannibal Coons took care of that detail and came up with 
some interesting information. 

*'Mrs. Williams is extremely friendly and pleasant to everyone," he 
reports, **but by now she is a little hipped on the Salvation Army, and if 
you so much as say hello she will gladly leap aboard the conversation 
and talk both your legs off about the Salvation Army and its glories/ 1 

May Williams not only satisfied her spiritual desires through her Sal- 
vation Army work, but also used it to earn a living for herself and her 
two boys. That was a little detail that apparently didn't always appeal to 
Ted's father. 

Sam Williams, a confirmed wanderer to whom a house was a prison, 
played virtually no part in the little family's life. He and his wife have 
been separated for nine years and are now officially divorced. Sam Is in 
the photography business in San Francisco and is very proud of his boy 
Ted. He sticks his chest out every time he hears of some new exploit by 
The Kid. 

A corps cadet as a little girl, Mrs, Williams has been In the Salvation 

f 44] 

Army for 44 years. She graduated from the Salvation Army Training 
College in Chicago in 1910, and spent three years on duty in Honolulu, 
where she met her future husband. Later, she was assigned successively 
to San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. 

Mrs. Williams was an officer in the Salvation Army for years. She is 
now an Envoy a non-com, something like a sergeant. She told Coons, 
"When I didn't marry an officer in the Army, I lost my rank." 

Playing the cornet in the Salvation Army band, and occasionally pick- 
ing up extra money by entertaining prisoners in nearby jails, May 
Williams took care of her growing boys. But the haphazard conditions 
of their life must have made an indelible impression upon young 
Teddy's character. It doesn't take a psychiatrist to see the effects of those 
impressions in the person that Ted has become. 

"Ted is a xvonderful son/' Mrs. Williams said. "He's never given me a 
moment's worry, and he's been a wonderful provider. He loves baseball 
just like 1 love my Salvation Army work." 

When he was a small boy, his mother used to give Ted 30 cents a 
day to buy his lunch. One day the school nurse called her and asked 
what arrangements Mrs. Williams was making for Ted's lunch. The 
nurse explained her concern by adding that the boy never seemed to go 
near the school cafeteria and was obviously losing weight. 

Mrs. Williams investigated and found that Ted was giving away his 
daily 30 cents to other kids who had no lunch money. He was going 
without lunch himself. This action didn't especially surprise his Mom, 
who says: "Ted is very generous and always has been." 

Mrs. Williams didn't have as much luck with her other son, Danny. 
With their mother so busy, both Ted and Danny were pretty much on 
their own, Ted went whole-hog for baseball, while Danny proceeded to 
drift into difficulties* 

There's no question that Ted has been exceedingly generous to his 
mother, even though he seldom goes to see her. He has sent her sizable 
sums of money ever since he started making it. A few years ago he had 
the old family home on Utah Street in San Diego completely remod- 
eled for her. She knows what she's talking about when she tells you he 
has always been a good boy. 

"Don't say anything about Teddy except the highest and the best," 
she told Coons. "He's a wonderful son." And as Hannibal says, "You 
can't beat that!" 

When Ted was a little boy, he was "dedicated" to the Salvation Army 
by Commissioner Estill of San Diego. It didn't take. As soon, as Ted 
discovered that the Army had no baseball team, he was through with it 

Ted's mother made no objection when he began playing ball at an 
early age. She didn't even object when he plastered the house with pic- 
tures o? Babe Ruth, who is probably still Ted's Number One idol The 

I 45 ] 

first time she put up a kick was when Ted told her the Texas Liquor 
House in San Diego wanted to pay him two dollars a game to play on its 
team. May Williams wouldn't stand for that at all Til sweep the streets 
first," she said, indignantly. 

But by and large she was very tolerant of his all-out attachment to the 
game. In fact, as he grew a little older, Mrs, Williams took an active 
Interest in his baseball career* Her demand for a $i ? ooo bonus for sign- 
ing caused Bill Essick of the Yankee scouting staff to drop Tecl like a 
hot potato. And when, at 17, he was signed by the San Diego club, she 
made the owner of the club Uncle Bill Lane promise not only that he 
wouldn't sell Ted until he was ax but also that he'd give her a piece of 
the purchase price when he did* 

Uncle Bill apparently forgot both promises. He peddled Theodore to 
the Red Sox in the middle of his second semester with the Padres, and 
he neglected to cut in Mrs, Williams. A big rhubarb resulted, and Mrs, 
Williams went all the way to Eddie Collins, the vice-president of the 
Red Sox, with her complaint. The word around the baseball circuit is 
that she came away from that interview richer by $2,500* 

So many things become clearer to you when you weigh all this infor- 
mation about Ted's background. You can understand, for instance, why 
he is so eager to make big money. There never was any money around 
the Williams house and there must have been times when the lack of it 
was a constant worry. Every time he endorses a fat pay check, Ted be- 
comes that much bigger in his own eyes* He justifies himself that much 

Knowing the kind of mold that shaped him, it's difficult to dismiss 
Ted's tantrums as the actions of an unmitigated jerk. lie isn't a jerk. 
He's a badly mixed-up young man who is just beginning to get his bear- 
Ings and Is trying hard to draw up on even terms with his inferiority 
complex. YouVe got to keep in mind that a guy who feels inferior will 
often attempt to make up for this by doing things that make people 
complain: "Who does that guy think he is?'* In other words, he tries to 
cover his burning sense of inferiority with a veneer of superiority. It's a 
hard thing to get away with and Ted is no master at it. 

Now that we know something about the origins of this young man 
with a bat, and a bit about what different people think of him, let's shift 
our spotlight to Williams himself. 

Ted's a fiend for exercising. He does pushups almost every clay, 
though he laughs off the stories that he does 50 every morning* 4 'I 
wouldn't be able to swing a bat if I did/' he says. He plenty of 
sleep, being no part of a night hawk, and he eats enough to feed two 
ordinary men. 

He's always buying new exercise gadgets that strike his fancy, espe- 
cially ones that he thinks might strengthen his wrists and his 

That's where he generates the power that sends the ball screaming over 
the fence and he's always in the market for more power. 

The stories you've read about the way he's always practicing his swing 
are largely true. He'll stand for an hour in front of a hotel-room mirror 
swinging a bat, and any bystanders are strictly on their own. Once he 
misjudged his distance and crashed his bat into the bed, wrecking it 
with one stroke. Broadway Charlie Wagner, who was rooming with 
him, dropped to the floor in the middle of the debris. Ted stood with the 
bat in his hand, looking at the unhappy Wagner in the ruined bed. And 
all he said was: "Gee, what power!'* 

Ted likes to read but he'll never make the Book-of-the-Month Club 
happy. His taste runs to hunting and fishing magazines and sports pub- 
lications. He may look at a comic book or two on the side, but it's the 
sports stuff he goes for mostly* Newspapers, too. He reads the papers 
religiously, although it probably would be better for his disposition if he 
didn't. He agrees with the writers about as often as Stalin agrees with 

Except for baseball, the Red Sox slugger has only one sports passion, 
and that's hunting and fishing. Give him a new gun or a new reel, and 
he's the happiest guy in the world. He's an absolute nut about the two 
outdoor sports. And good, too. Competent observers have said he is one 
of the finest fly-casters, if not the finest, in the United States. 

When it comes to being entertained, he'll settle for the movies. He's 
crazy about Wild West pictures, but will compromise on a good, bloody 
murder picture. As long as it's got plenty of gun-fighting, Ted will say 
it's okay. 

Ranking right along with his passion for the movies, but not as fre- 
quently indulged in, is Ted's love for prize fights. His wife, Doris, shares 
this enthusiasm with him, as she does his delight in hunting and fishing. 
The Williamses rarely miss a good or even mediocre fight 

When it comes to money, as to so many other things, Ted is a strange 
guy. Hell break your arm before he'll let you pick up a check, but he'll 
endorse anything or participate in any kind of a stunt to make a fast 
buck. When I first went to work on this story, I was warned by the 
Boston front office that Ted might demand a fee for being interviewed. 
He doesn't miss any bets. Fred Corcoran, his business agent, gets paid to 
hustle extra-curricular fees for him. 

But if Ted is an eager beaver when it comes to making money, he has 
few peers in the technique of spending it He tips lavishly and he stub- 
bornly refuses to let anybody in Ms company pay for anything. If you 
insist, you're in for trouble, because Ted's method of settling such an 
argument is to wrestle you for it. 

As far as Ms baseball pay is concerned, the best guess seems to be that 
Ted wants to get his hooks on the biggest pay check in baseball history 

(47 ] 

not only because he's hungry for the cash, but because he's hungry for 
the prestige such an arrangement would carry for him. He wants, more 
than anything else, to be known as the top hitter of all time. Quite logi- 
cally, he figures that if he can pull down the biggest salary of all time, 
hell have made his point, 

Except for the tantrums he directs at the fans and at himself, nobody 
can say Ted is a bad actor on the playing field. He never bothers the 
umpires and he never gets belligerent toward the guys on the other 
team. Nobody at Boston can ever recall seeing Ted in a rhubarb with an 
umpire and there are very few players who can make that statement 

Ted never wears a hat or a necktie. 

The one thing he didn't like about his service in the Marine Corps 
was the regulation that forced him, to wear a Held scarf. "Field scarf, 
hell!" he still complains. "As far as 1 was concerned, it was just another 
goddam tie!" 

Williams has no permanent home. He lives most anywhere the fish- 
ing is good. He hasn't bought or built a house yet, and if lie has any 
ideas in that direction, he hasn't told anybody about them. During the 
season, he rents an apartment or a small house in Boston, picking it off 
the listings kept on file in the Red Sox office. 

Ted has few business interests outside baseball Some people in Boston 
tried to interest him in an automobile agency, but lie turned the prop- 
osition down. *Td rather go off some place and fish when the season's 
over," he told them. He does, however, have a financial interest in a 
Howard Johnson restaurant. 

Nobody ever has heard Ted speak of any baseball ambitions extend- 
ing beyond his playing days. It's unlikely that he'd have the patience to 
take on a coaching or managing job. 

Ted's reluctance to make public appearances Is well known but a lot 
of people don't Icnow that he's a wonderful after-dinner speaker if you 
can get him to do it. He has a ready wit and a gift for repartee that 
enables him to hold his own with the best professional spccch*niakcrs* 
But he hates it, hates it like poison, so it's a rare occasion when he sits 
down at a banquet table. 

He's a rapid-fire talker when you have him off by himself, Especially 
if he's not just making polite conversation, but is really interested in the 
subject being discussed. Get him talking about hunting or fishing, or 
batting, and he bubbles over with excitement. He tries to tell you six 
things at once and his personality is at its effervescent best, 

A swing music fan, Ted has no use for the quiet tunes that arc gener- 
ally piped into Fenway Park the afternoon of a ball game, ^Geez, that 
stinks! ' hell complain loudly* 

Ted's idea of a wonderful way to spend a rainy day In Boston Is to 
hustle down to the Police Department range ana shoot at for 

I 48] 

hours. The cops love him. They've always got a gun and a flock of 
bullets for him and that's not a crack. 

When you look at him, or study a picture of him, there doesn't seem 
to be anything especially unusual about Ted Williams* ears. They don't 
stick out from his head at right angles like Ewell BlackwelFs do. They 
aren't mashed to pulp like a punchdrunk prizefighter's. On the contrary, 
they're a good-looking pair of cars. They fit close to his handsome head 
and they go well with his regular features. 

But the fact remains that they are highly unusual ears. They're the 
most sensitive organs of hearing baseball has known in recent history. 
To put it in the language of the dugout, the/re "rabbit ears." Each one 
is equipped with a natural radar set that makes it possible for Ted to 
pick a single raspberry out of a booming roar of approving cheers. 

Young Mr, Williams is an artist in this department. Standing in deep 
left field, he can hear a mildly sarcastic comment originating in the last 
row of the grandstand on a cloudy day. And what he does when his 
sensitive ears tune in on the wavelength of the booing fan Is a caution. 
No man alive can guess what form his savage counterattack will take. 
It's a good bet, though, that the counterattack will come. 

The consuming passion of this young man's life is hitting, and that 
means he has apprenticed himself to a tough trade, one that imposes 
harsh restrictions on him. It has made him a perfectionist, like Bix 
Beiderbecke was with trumpeting, or Bobby Jones with golf. 

Ted not only dislikes himself when his hitting falls off he's posi- 
tively intolerant of himself. It's this ingrained compulsion to be the best 
man at his trade in the world that has made him such an irascible char- 
acter. When the homers aren't rattling off his mace, he can't stand any- 
oneincluding himself. When a fan barks a querulous jibe at such a 
time, Williams is goaded into turning on his tormentor with a spitting, 
scathing stream of searing profanity that would burn the ears off a mule- 

When he's hitting, it's a different story. Then he's the picture of the 
complacent artisan, the satisfied workman who has just finished a good 
day's work and Is ready, even eager, to accept compliments from all 

There is nothing malicious, I am sure, about the occasional princely 
rages he directs at jeering fans. They are, rather, wholly defensive in 
character, another product of that whopping inferiority complex. 

Ted made his first ripple in the baseball world back in 1935 when, as 
a 1 6-year-old pitcher-outfielder at Herbert Hoover High School in San 
Diego, he murdered opposition pitching for a sensational .586 batting 

According to people who ought to know, it was right at this time that 
the New York Yankees muffed a chance to wrap him up in cellophane 

f 49 1 

for future delivery. One of Ted's buddies, a fireman named Elmer Hill, 
is reported to have touted the kid slugger to Bill Essick, who makes his 
living hunting ivory for the Yanks. Essiclc was interested in young Ted, 
but he lost interest fast when he learned, as mentioned previously, that 
Ted's mother wanted a cash bonus of an even thousand bucks for sign- 
ing. Essick didn't think the gangling youngster was worth that kind of 

This is strictly hindsight, and not meant as a slam at Essick's scouting 
talent, which is considerable, but it's a fact that a quarter of a million 
dollars wouldn't buy half of Ted Williams today. 

Ted had a terrific slump in his 1936 high school season* He only hit 
a feeble .403! But even that anaemic mark was good enough to catch the 
eye of Bill Lane, who at that time owned the San Diego Padres of the 
Pacific Coast League. The Padres signed Williams to his first profes- 
sional baseball contract. 

Frank Shellenback, now a scout for the New York Giants, was man- 
aging the Padres at the time. Williams reported to him, as a pitcher but 
Shellenback wasted no time switching the kid to the outfield* For one 
thing, Frank wanted to exploit Ted's batting power, and for another he 
was worried about the kid's health. 

'1 wanted him to have a long life/' he says now, '"and I knew he 
wouldn't have as a pitcher. The balls were going back to him a lot faster 
than he was serving them up." 

The only time Williams has pitched since was one desperate after- 
noon in 1941 when the Red Sox mound staff had been exhausted by 
the Detroit Tigers, and Ted took over. In one inning, he fanned Pinky 
Higgins, made Hank Greenberg pop up, and struck out Rudy York* For 
weeks, he talked about nothing else. 

There was no indication, in Ted's first season as a minor-leaguer (he 
finished out the '36 campaign in the uniform of the San Diego club),, 
that he was going to grow up into the most feared slugger since Ruth, 
Ted hit .271, including exactly no home runs, But there was something 
about the way he leaned into the ball, something about his nonchalance 
on the firing line, that made you look twice at him. 

Certainly Eddie Collins, then the general manager of the Red Sox, 
looked twice. And again, and still again. Collins finally grabbed Wil- 
liams after he finished the 1937 season with the Padres* That year, his 
first full season as a pro, Ted belted 23 homers and hit a respectable 
-291. He hit his way right into the Boston organization* 

It would make pleasant reading to say that the Red Sox rushed Ted 
straight to Fenway Park and that his bat rocketed home runs into the 
bleachers there with the consistency of an Si-millimeter mortar, But 
that didn't happen. Instead, the Sox took a look at Teddy in the Spring 
of 1938 and seat him to Minneapolis in the American Association. 

I 50] 

Ted came of age as a hitter in Minneapolis. All the pitchers in the 
circuitand the American Association is not known as an easy league- 
were cousins to Thumping Theodore. He walloped the ball at a merci- 
less .366 dip and included 43 home runs in his production of hits. Not 
bad for a growing boy. 

While he was playing for the Millers, he met Doris Soule, who lived 
in nearby Princeton, Minnesota. He married her in 1944. 

Though his hitting was good in Minneapolis, his behavior was ex- 
tremely bad for Manager Donie Bush's peace of mind. Ted had a habit 
of wandering around in the outfield taking imaginary swings with an 
imaginary bat that almost drove Bush nuts. He would be swinging 
away, and practicing his footwork, even while a fly ball was soaring 
toward him, which is a brand of outfielding difficult for the most broad- 
minded manager to endorse. 

Bush sputtered with indignation one day when Ted belted a double, 
then took a short lead off second. The third-base coach hollered instruc- 
tions to him, and Ted turned on the offending citizen angrily. 

"Hey!" he yelled. "Shut up, willya? I got myself out here, and 111 get 
myself in again!" 

But Teddy learned a lot in Minneapolis, enough to help him stick 
with the Red Sox when he reported for duty in the Spring of 1939. 

His first season with the Red Sox didn't seem to be getting off to an 
especially good start when he was yanked from an exhibition game in 
Atlanta for throwing the ball into the stands after missing a foul catch. 
Joe Cronin didn't waste a second pulling him out of the lineup after 
that outburst, and the square-jawed Irishman from San Francisco pulled 
no punches explaining to the recruit that if he was going to play in the 
big leagues he'd have to learn to act like a big-leaguer. 

Whether or not Ted ever has learned is open to question. But he 
hasn't been yanked from any ball games recently and his present mana- 
ger, Joe McCarthy, isn't known for tolerating clowns or incompetents. 

Although Ted had a good season with Boston in 1939, his first year 
up, he wasn't able to take the spotlight away from Foxx. The fading 
Jimmy, nearing the end of his career, walloped 35 home runs as he 
fashioned a batting average of .360. The kid from Minneapolis hit .327, 
chalked up 31 homers, and batted in the astounding total of 145 runs* 

That was a reasonably happy year for Ted. Everybody liked him, de- 
spite his cocky attitude and his forthright manner of speech, and cer- 
tainly everybody respected his ability. But the next season marked the 
beginning of his unpopularity. It was in 1940 that the fans began to 
ride him and he began to snarl at them like a caged lion. The relation- 
ship established that year hasn't changed materially since, though it has 
its nigh and its low points. Ted and the customers rarely enjoy any 
degree of intimacy beyond the status of an armed truce, 

[51 J 

It was In 1940 that he first decided lie \vouldn't tip his cap to the 
crowd, and he has stuck to that decision. 

If It weren't for his unfortunate actions, Ted would have been the 
hero of Boston in 1940. He hit a rousing .344 and smote 23 home runs, 
14 triples, and 43 doubles, lie drove in 113 runs. On all sides he was 
gaining recognition as one of the game's outstanding hitters, but in few 
quarters was he winning friends or Influencing people. 

The year 1941, of course, was a great one lor The Thumper. That 
,406 batting average stands out in the record books like a Ixjaeon light, 
and you've got to admire the way Ted put it together. With a week to 
go ? his average was .406, and since the Red Sox had no hope of chang- 
ing their position in the race (they wore second to the Yankees), 
Cronin offered to let him call It quits in order to protect his average. 
Ted refused Instantly, 

"If I'm a ,400 hitter/* he told his manager, 'Tin a .*po hitter for a 
whole season, not for part of one." 

For a while after that It looked as though he wasn't going to make It, 
His average slipped to .399, which is what it was on the last day of the 
season as the Red Sox went into a doubleheader with the Athletics at 
Philadelphia. There was no longer any interest in the American League 
pennant race that clay but there was plenty of interest in Ted Williams* 
bid for immortality. Everybody waited to see if he could do it, 

He did it and then some. Ted collected four hits in live trips to the 
plate in the first game and got two out of three in the nightcap. That 
was a total of six hits in eight tries for the day, and it left his 1941 
average at a spectacular .406. One of the hits, incidentally, was a Ixiom- 
ing homer, his syth of the year. 

Ted had another fine season in 1942, his last before entering the 
service. He hit ,356, driving in 137 runs and showering the stands with 
36 homers. (It's interesting to note that Williams invariably keeps his 
home-run production around the middle thirties.) 

He was involved in a bit of a fuss that year when he applied for 
deferment from the draft on die grounds that he had to support Ills 
mother. His already widespread unpopularity caused a lot of people to 
mutter about him, but the muttering died down when Tec! enlisted in 
the Navy as an Aviation Cadet. Later, of course, he moved over to the 
Marines, for whom he flew an F4U. Ted holds the Marino Corps all- 
time gunnery record for firing at a towed sleeve, which 5s not surprising 
when you remember what an amazingly keen pair of eyes he possesses* 

The Navy doctors who gave him his entrance examination said Ms 
eyes would occur only six times in 100,000 persons* American League 
pitchers will nod sagely at this information and tell you they knew it all 
the time. 

While we're on the subject of Williams at the bat, they say around the 

(52 ; 

league that the only way to pitch to Ted, other than walking him, is to 
keep the ball well inside, on the handle of his hat It's hard for him to 
get enough leverage to lift the ball into the stands if you watch your 
control and keep it well in there. But look out if you miss by so much 
as an inch. The ball will zoom past your ear like the Santa Fe's Super- 
Chief rocketing through New Mexico hell-bent for LA 

Ted's fielding is a different story. His philosophy holds that fielding 
is a relatively unimportant art, so he refuses to knock himself out in 
pursuit of defensive distinction. He leaves that to the DiMaggio boys. 

"They'll never get me out of the game running into a wall after a fly 
ball/' he says. "Ill make a damn good try, but you can bet your sweet 
life I won't get killed. They don't pay off on fielding." 

Despite this attitude, he's not as bad out there as he's sometimes 
painted even if his favorite fielding pose is a disinterested slouch with 
his arms folded across his chest after the manner of a cigar-store Indian. 

When Ted came back from the war and rejoined the Red Sox at 
Sarasota in the Spring of '46, he seemed to be happy and friendly. The 
sportswriters turned out barrels of material on 'The New Ted Wil- 
liams/' and speculated about whether his marriage or his service experi- 
ence should get the credit for his reformation. 

Then, things began to go wrong again. It's generally true that a 
Williams rampage has its beginnings In a frustrating event. Well, the 
big frustration of 1946 for Teddy was the Lou Boudreau Shift. It just 
about drove him out of his head. The shift came into being at Fenway 
Park on a hot day in July, 1946. Ted had enjoyed a spectacular first 
game in a scheduled doubleheader with Cleveland, powdering three 
home runs. Desperate for some means of stopping the Boston clouter, 
Lou Boudreau, the Indians' manager, tried overshifting his defensive 
lineup to the right. He hoped to rob Williams of a lot of infield hits that 
way and he did. 

He also gave Ted a new bone to worry over. Williams could have 
discouraged the shift idea that first day by the simple expedient of bunt- 
ing down the unprotected third-base line, or slicing a hit into the wide- 
open spaces of left field. But he didn't Instead, he got proud, and he 
slashed away furiously at the heavily populated right side of the dia- 
mond, trying to prove he could hit the ball into the stands. He's been 
trying to prove it ever since and, of course, he has succeeded quite 
well But the shift has hurt him just the same. Most experts agree that 
It robbed him of anywhere from 15 to 20 base-hits in 1947. And it 
bothers the daylights out of him, even though he hates to admit it, 

Of course, when Williams is having a good day, there is no defense 
against him. It's illegal to put an outfielder in the right-field grandstand, 

Ted did all right in '46 despite the handicap of the new shift. He 
hauled the Red Sox to the pennant on the wings of his ,342 batting 


average, his 123 runs-batted-in, and his 38 homers. He didn't win the 
batting championship, which went to Washington's suddenly-inspired 
first-baseman, Mickey Vcmon. But he did everything that was expected 
of him, and more, until he hit the World Scries. Then he went into the 
most woeful tailspin of his career. He couldn't hit the St Louis Cardi- 
nal pitchers for beans, and he came out of the series the undisputed 
goat of the beaten favorites. 

Some observers thought his sobering World Series experience would 
work a change in Ted's approach to the game, but no such change has 
been visible. He's the same old Ted. His batting average is about the 
same, his RBI total is about the same, his home-run production is about 
the same, and his disposition is exactly the same. 

It's too bad it had to be that way, for Ted has the makings of a great 
American sports legend. He has created something of a legend already, 
but it's not a pleasant one. I Ic had the opportunity to do much better, 
He has known some great clays on the diamond, this stringfaean who 
comes from California and plays in Boston, ! le has accomplished some 
feats that no amount of eccentricity will be able to erase from the litera- 
ture of baseball 

There was, for instance, the day Ted broke the hearts of all National 
Leaguers in the 1941 All-Star game at Detroit. Leading by 5-3, with two 
out in the last of the ninth, the Nationals seemed to have the ball game 
all wrapped up. But they had forgotten about Ted Williams. With one 
magnificent poke, Terrible Ted changed everything. 

You probably recall what happened. la that fateful ninth, Frankze 
Hayes was first up for the American League, He popped to Billy Her- 
man at second. Kenny Keltner, the Cleveland third-baseman batted for 
pitcher Edgar Smith and drove an infield hit to Eddie Miller at short. 
Joe Gordon singled to right and a walk to Cecil Travis filled the bases* 

The stands were seething with excitement as Joe DiMaggio, the 
Yankee Clipper himself, strode to the plate with that purposeful, busi- 
nesslike air. But DiMag didn't have a hit in his system* The best he 
could do was hit into a force play that pushed Keltncr over the plate. As 
Travis went into second base he bothered Billy Herman just enough to 
make that marvelous second-sadker throw a little wide on the attempted 
double play. That was the National League's big mistake, for it brought 
up Ted Williams again. 

Bill McKechnie, the wily NL manager, could have walked Williams, 
But Claude Passeatt had struck him out in the eighth and besides, 
Dom DiMaggio was up next, and that could hardly be regarded as a 
picnic. So McKechnie ordered Passeau to pitch to the Boston star, 

Ted stood up there in that wiggly, waggly, way of hi% fidgeting and 
stretching and squirming. You could hear the people in the stands talk- 
ing* "Loose as a goose up there, ain't he?** 


With the count two balls and one strike, the mighty man swung. He 
kissed the ball with the fat part of his bat and that was all. Into the 
right-field stands whistled the tiny pellet, and the ball game was over. 
Grinning and dancing happily, The Kid circled the bases behind Gor- 
don and DiMaggio and dented the plate to make the score 7-5 for his 

It was a tough game for the National League to lose, but they learned 
the hard way what the boys in the other league have known for a long 
time that the only way to get Ted Williams out is to hit him on the 
head with a blunt instrument 

Then there was the 1946 Ail-Star game, in which Ted took the gen- 
tlemen from the National League, stirred them up with a few pokes of 
his bat, and hung them out on the line to dry. It was plain murder, 
what he did that July 9 in his own ball park. 

Principally because of the way Ted Williams swung his dynamite- 
laden bat, the National League went down that day to a humiliating 
12-0 defeat in the annual mid-Summer classic. It was, by anybody's 
standards, a rout. And Williams was the chief router. (There isn't any 
such word, but in this case there ought to be.) 

While Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, and Jack Kramer were handcuff- 
ing the NL hitters with three stray singles, the AL power erupted like 
Mount Vesuvius. Williams went up to bat five times, and each time he 
got on base. He walked in the first inning, hit a home run in the fourth 
with nobody on, singled home a run in the fifth, singled off the great 
Ewell Blackwell in the seventh, and hit his famous homer off Rip 
SewelFs blooper in the eighth. 

It's doubtful if any baseball crowd ever got more of a kick out of a hit 
than the Fenway Park throng got out of Ted's clout off Sewell in that 
game. Remember, it was no longer a contest at that stage. It was simply 
an exhibition. Without anything specific to root for, the fans loaned 
their affection to Williams and implored him to hit another homer. 

When he teed off on Sewell's teaser, supplying all his own power to 
propel the ball into the seats, the crowd roared until it sank back ex- 
hausted. It was a great moment for Ted, 

In any study of this amazing character, youVe got to spend a little 
time on the Most Valuable Player situation. It's important to note that 
despite his fabulous batting feats, the Red Sox hero has won the MVP 
award in the American League only once. Fie was voted the honor in 
1946 for his work in sparking the Sox to their first pennant in 28 years. 
The writers overlooked Ted's miserable World Series performance (he 
batted aoo against the Cardinals). 

But in 1941, the year Williams blasted American League pitching for 
a .406 average, the first ,400 mark in the majors since Bill Terry hit .401 
for the Giants in 1930, he didn't get it Joe DiMaggio did. That was the 


season Joltin' Joe hung up his consecutive game batting streak of 56 in 

a row as lie slugged the Yanks to the flag. The decision was received 
with an ominous quiet in Boston. 

In 1947, it was almost like a replay of the "41 affair. Ted monopolized 
the slugging titles in his league, but Joe DiMaj$io led the Yankees to 
another pennant DiMaggio hit .315, and Williams hit ,343, DiMag 
collected 20 home runs. Williams hit 32, DiMag drove in 97 runs, Wil- 
liams batted in 114. But when the writers filled out their ballot slips, 
DiMaggio was named the Most Valuable Player by a one-vote margin 
over Ted. 

What docs this mean? In Boston they'll tell you it means nothing 
except that "those goddam prejudiced New York sportswriters are at it 
again." The 1947 MVP announcement got a different reception from 
the 1941 result That time there was stunned silence. This time there 
was an anguished outcry. "We was robbed!" the Red Sox shouted, as 
they staggered from the blow. 

The truth of the matter is, of course, that the small group of New 
York City sportswriters participating in the poll cannot possibly wield 
enough influence to swing the election to their candidate, Williams was 
defeated Because a great many conscientious sportswrlters do not con- 
sider him the Most Valuable Player in any league. The chances arc 
good they wouldn't consider him such if lie hit twice as many home 
runs* They think he's a poor team man who cares only for his own 
batting marks and nothing for the success of the unit- 
There wasn't any argument after the 1948 season, Lou Koudreau, the 
great shortstop-manager of the pennant-winning Indians, won the MVP 
despite the fact that Ted once again won the batting championship o 
the American League, this time with a sparkling .$(*) average, 

This is for sure. No matter how complicated are the wheels that go 
around inside Ted Williams* head, no matter how many rhubarbs he 
stirs up either on or off the field, he is still the greatest batsman of his 
time. With that Louisville Slugger in his mitts, Tec! is absolutely the 

There are few players who can equal the impression of controlled 
violence that you sec in Ted Williams as he steps up to the plate, 

He's as loose as ashes tip there, wiggling his bat incessantly, swinging 
his arms, fidgeting this way and that. The wiry grace of his body carries 
an explosive air. You sit in your seat and you begin to tingle. It's sonic- 
thing like the feeling you get when the bathrobes come off the two an- 
tagonists just before a heavyweight championship light It's a feeling 
anyone who ever saw Babe Ruth bat will remember clearly* Something 
is going to happen , . . you can feel it . , you wait for it . . . and 
when Ted leans into the ball, the swish and the smash remind you of 
the lash of a giant bull whip, 


It's an indescribable relief when you know he's hit the ball . . . You 
wanted him to hit it badly, and you half-rise out of your seat when you 
see the ball 0y off the fat of his bat, soar into the blue sky like a home- 
sick star, and dip purposefully into the stands. 

The deep roar that accompanies a Ted Williams home run comes 
from the pit of the fans' stomachs, and you don't have to be an amateur 
psychologist to guess that his blast has made them a little bigger in their 
own eyes. It's as though the crash of his mighty bat made them feel they 
had managed to belt savagely all the obstacles and troubles in the world. 

Many people have compared Ted Williams to Babe Ruth, on two 
counts. They claim he hits like the mighty Bambino, and he has the 
same colorful temperament. 

That's a swing and a miss. Williams may grow up to be a hitter of 
Ruthian proportions, but he's got a heap of growing to do first. The 
Boston thumper is a whale of a man with that bat but, good as he is, he 
has yet to prove he belongs in the same class with Ruth. 

As a person, Ruth was a man of huge appetites, a man who ate and 
drank like Gargantua, out-playboyed Tommy Manville, and rode 
through life on a cloud of casual good humour that left no room for 
thoughts of a serious nature, Williams, on the other hand, trains reli- 
giously, never lets himself pick up excess weight, carefully respects his 
eyes and his wind, and gets plenty of sleep. He's no girl-chaser, no lover 
of night clubs, no devourer of hot dogs by the dozen. His claim to the 
rating of "character" is based on one traithis petulance. 

Petulant Is a word that means sulky, bad-tempered, irritable, huffy, 
fretful, moody, peevish, cross. All those words fit Ted Williams. Be- 
cause he owns these unenviable qualities, Williams has enlivened his 
baseball career (but not enhanced it) by a bewildering array of inci- 
dents that have made him look like nothing so much as a small boy who 
gets sore when things don't go exactly his way. He's the archtype of the 
kid who has to be treated with kid gloves because he's liable to get mad 
at the gang, pick up his marbles, and run home, 

That's not the kind of ballplayer Babe Ruth was. It is, unfortunately, 
the kind of player Ted Williams is or, at any rate, has been until now. 
When and if Ted grows up, the chances are good his ability will im- 
prove side by side with his character. 

But that's pure speculation. You never know what the guy is likely to 
do next. Even the Williams-hardened people in the Red Sox front office 
were slightly surprised to see him take up a position in the boxes behind 
first base one day a few years ago and calmly point a shiny new pistol at 
the Scoreboard in left field. Shooting deliberately, Ted proceeded to 
shatter some $400 worth of electric light bulbs! 

I ask you, what the hell are you going to do with a guy like that? 
Especially when he's a couple of guys* 



FROM July 4, 1919, to September 23, 1926 from a day in Toledo 
under a merciless, broiling sun to a night at Philadelphia in a 
soggy, rain-drenched ring there reigned a fighting champion the 
world will never forget. They called him, "Jack the Giant Killer, 1 " and 
"The Manassa Mauler/ He was called a hero, a wonderful guy, and he 
was called a bum, and worse. 

Jack Dempsey was the most loved and most hated prizefighter the 
ring has ever known, at once the most popular heavyweight champion 
of the world and the most despised. For a time, he was God's most mis- 
understood and unhappy man, yet he fought his way out of the mist to 
become one of the most respected and successful figures of his era, 
Dempsey was a man who had to fight all his life. He \vas made for it. 
The word fight belongs to Jack Dempsey* It is synonymous with his 

As a boy, bum, man, and gentleman, there has never teen a fighter 
with the color of Dempsey, of such heroic proportions, living a life so 
touched with spirit, excitement, tragedy, and drama. Out of the ring a 
land, human, warm-hearted man, inside the ropes no one could be" as 
rough-and-tumble, so much of a killer, so cruel, so much an animal, as 

The Dempsey scowl, the hate in the flat-black eyes, the murder in his 
brine-hardened fists, struck terror into the men he faced. But, as the 
years rolled on, the fighters he had battered into bloody hulks became 
his friends. They came to him for jobs, to talk over old times, or just to 
shake his hand* 

Few realize what the kid from Manassa did for the fight game* I le 
took it out of the smoky back rooms and dance halls, tlie kirns, pool 
halls, and bars. His fists built the million-dollar the huge arenas* 

the nationwide broadcasts. He changed the game and changed himself. 
Today little remains of the Dempsey of the early 1900'$, me bearded, 
cinder-covered, poverty-roughened "bo" riding the blind from 


town to town, getting beat up and dishing it out in Western tank towns 
to earn enough for a meal and a flop. 

In the face of today's Dempsey, the restlessness is gone. Only a few 
scars are still there to tell you what he once was. His manner is f riendly, 
his life easy. His bashed-in nose has been lifted. He's learned the man- 
ners of gentlemen. He's learned the ways of business and respectability. 
Only occasionally does the spirit of the old Dempsey flash through the 
veneer as his face comes alive with the old toughness, the competitive 
fire that made him so murderous in the ring. 

It was a bitter and beautiful time for Jack Dempsey. It was a time 
filled with pain and hunger, and joy and extreme hardship. Nobody 
can talk about it the way Dempsey can, because nobody misses it so 
much. Of all the people who told me stories about Jack Dempsey the 
friends, trainers, sparring mates none of them related the incidents 
about the Manassa Mauler as vividly as Dempsey himself. 

On a Saturday afternoon we sat in the back of Jack's glittering restau- 
rant on Broadway. The noon rush hour was over. The place was almost 
quiet. Three of us sat around a table. Dempsey, his body too big for his 
chair, chewed on an unlit cigar. Al Buck, his friend and adviser, toyed 
with a pair of eggs, A few people drifted over to get Dempsey's auto- 
graph* A woman came over and Jack got up and shook her hand. 

"You don't remember me, Jack/' she said. "It was a long time ago, I 
was twenty-six." 

*Tou don't look much older than that now," Dempsey said, with a 

A friend from the West came over after she left. The friend looked at 
Jack the way a ten-year-old looks at a hero. 

"You look good, Jack," he said. "Bet you could still fight." 

"No, pal," Jack said. "I couldn't." 

When the friend went away, Dempsey turned to us. There was a 
certain sadness in his eyes. "Still fight?" he said. "I lost that a long time 
ago, long before most people knew I had lost it. But I knew it. I knew 
it before that Tunney fight. I had started to think then. Think" he 
said, underlining the word with his voice. "That's something a fighter 
should never do. The smarter you get, the less you can fight" 

Then he began to talk about the past, recalling old names, old towns, 
fights, struggles, the way it was when a tough kid named Dempsey had 
nothing in the world but a dream and a punch. He did not speak his 
thoughts in any sort of order he jumped back and forth over the years 
but all he said had in it the color andlustiness of raw life. After a while, 
it got so that you could see the old roads and hills of the West, the 
wind-beaten, clapboard houses, the tough dives, the freights hurtling 
through the night, the sawdust rings with the clothesline ropes. You 
could smell the sweat and liniment and taste the blood-soaked gloves. 


'Whenever 1 went into the ring then/' Dcmpsey was saying, "I felt 

like the toughest guy in the world. The scowl? 1 never felt i had it. I 
didn't feel anything* Too keyed up. 1 just wanted to get that guy in 
front of me. Belt the hell out of him, before he'd Kelt the hell out of inc. 
No, I didn't think much then. Thau why I had coordination of mind 
and body. It was a natural instinct A fighter shouldn't think. Just fight 
I was good, then. But how many saw those lighlsr The mil lights, the 
ones where I got a few lousy bucks, the hardest and Ix'st ii^hts." 

Dempsey never had a "boxing match" with anyone in his life. It was 
always a fight He began talking about one of the fights, one of the 
toughest It was a fight he won over a roughneck puncher named Johnny 
Sudenberg in Goldiield, Nevada, in 1915* Dempsey \uis 20 years old 
then, not fully grown, weighing 165 pounds. He hail been hopping 
freights, working in mines, traveling all over Utah, Colorado, Nevada, 
trying to get into the ring against anyone who would li^hl him* 

Sudenberg was a heavyweight, one of the most rugged and jkillful the 
mining country had ever produced. Dempsey went up against him as a 
substitute for a fighter who had backed out. The promoters were wor- 
ried, because Jack looked too small and seemed too green as a fighter. 
But Dempsey talked them into it 

He trained in a dive called the Northern Bar, His first sparring part- 
ner was a rough Indian pug named Kid I larrison. Dempsey, never easy 
on spar-mates, knocked Harrison stiff one clay and lost him, I !c took on 
another boy named Roy Moore. This one managed to stay on his feet 
during the training. Before the bout, Moore, who had seen Sudenherg 
fight, advised Dempsey not to start slugging it out with his opponent". 

That went against Dempscy's grain. He knew how to do only one 
thing, go in there and slug. The light was held in the town dancehall. 
For three rounds, the two men stood toe to toe and tried to kill each 
other with punches. The place was a madhouse of screaming miners 
and farmers. They had never seen anything like it 

''Johnny coulcl hit," Dempsey said *'Trom the fifth round on, I had 
BO idea what was happening. Sometimes there was a Face in front of 
me. Sometimes there was nothing. I just kept throwing my fists/* 

The fight went 10 rounds. Dempsey was on his feel: when the bell 
rang, hut for hours afterwards he didn't know whether he had won or 
been, knocked out The fight went to Dempsey on a decision. Demp- 
sey dragged his battered body and welted, shapeless face to a shack out- 
side of town where he slept. When he woke up the next morning, he 
discovered that his manager had skipped off with the ?ico Dempsey 
was to get for the fight, I le was flat broke* 

The bcaten-up kid fighter hung around town for a few days, Then a 
wire came from a promoter in Tonopah, Nevada, 30 miles away. Would 
Dempsey fight Johnny Sudenberg again? Dempsey*s answer was to 

[ 60] 

for Tonopah, walking. It was a walk over the mountains. He legged It 
15 miles before he was picked up by a wagon. And 10 days later, his 
face and body still swollen and bruised, Young Dempsey, as he was 
then known, climbed into the ring again against Sudenberg. 

The second Dempsey-Sudenberg fight was rougher than the first In 
the first round, Dempsey floored Sudenberg seven times. Each time, 
Johnny bounced back and crashed into Dempsey. Round after round 
wore on. One of the fighters had to retreat. It was Sudenberg, He began 
to back up, but as he went back, he kept belting away and gaining 
strength. Dempsey, not used to fighting in high altitudes, began to 
weaken. In the seventh round, Sudenberg brought up a right from the 
floor and knocked Dempsey flat on his back. Jack got up, Sudenberg 
knocked him down again. Dempsey took three knockdowns in that 
round, but kept on boring in for more. 

The crowd watching that fight was as exhausted as the fighters. By 
the last round, with the two men still slugging at each other, they 
watched in silent, breathless awe. They had seen the greatest prizefight 
of their lives, probably one of the most brutal of all time. It was called 
a draw. Dempsey pulled himself across the ring at the final bell, put his 
arm around Johnny Sudenberg's shoulders. They left the ring that way, 
supporting each other. 

"He was a fighter/' Dempsey said. "I really liked that guy." 

After the fight with Sudenberg, Dempsey was broke. His best friend 
in the world at that time was the man he had just fought. Sudenberg 
and Dempsey scraped up enough money to buy a pair of train tickets to 
Reno. At Nina Junction, they staged another fight, a four-round affair, 
to get enough money to continue. They passed the hat and took in four 
dollars and split it up and shook hands and when they finally parted 
they were the best of friends. 

Few fighters ever fought so fiercely, or smoldered with such a deep 
desire to annihilate an opponent, as Dempsey, But, once it was over, 
Dempsey never had the slightest feeling of dislike for the man he had 
tried to kill in the ring. In Toledo, to win the tide, Jack cut big Jess 
Willard to ribbons, slashed the left side of his face open to the bone in 
13 places. It was as ruthless and brutal a beating as any man has ever 
taken in the ring. But, today, Willard is one of Dempse/s friends, and 
Jack gave him jobs on two occasions. 

Dempsey likes to tell about the time he hired Jess to make the rounds 
of bars in Miami and plug a liquor bearing the trade mark Jack Demy* 
$&/$ Rye. Willard would go into a bar, ask in a loud voice how Jack 
Dempsey's Rye was going, then order a drink of it for everyone. "Some 
of Dempsey's Rye for everyone/' Jess would say, "and make mine a 
scotch and soda." 

Fans will never forget the Wild Bull of the Pampas, Luis Angel 

Firpo, the huge giant who smashed Dempsey clean out of the ring that 
September night in 1923 at the Polo Grounds, It was the most primi- 
tive, savage title fight ever seen, eclipsing even the Willard massacre. In 
the first round, Dempscy knocked the giant Firpo down seven times. 
Then, in a frenzied, maddened rush, the Argentinian crashed into 
Dempsey with fists flying, and die champion sailed through the ropes, 
landing on newspapermen and breaking a typewriter to pieces. 

"Between the rounds/ 1 Dempsey said, "Jerry the Greek pushed smell- 
ing salts under my nose, I felt as though I had been fighting for hours. 
1 thought 1 had struck thousands of blows and been hit as many times. 
I asked Doc Kearns what round it was. When he said it was the first 
round, I couldn't believe him/' 

Nobody is more honest about the things that happened in his fights 
than Jack Dempsey* For years, a hot debate swirled around the issue of 
whether Dempsey was pushed out of the ring by Firpo or knocked out. 
"He must have cracked me good/* Jack will tell you. "I didn't know 
what hit me, I was groggy/' And did the newspapermen help Dempwey 
back into the ring? "I don't remember whether they did or not/* Demp- 
sey said, "They probably did. Damned if I know, I just know I was 
fighting in a fog, instinctively/' 

Dempsey ended Firpo's fighting career. But, even today, more than a 
quarter-century after the fight, Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo still 
write letters to each other* Recently Firpo sent Dempsey a South Ameri- 
can fighter whom he thought Jack might help. And Jack Sharkcy, that 
surly, slugging gob who was so bitter about his KG by Dempscy's fists ? 
still drops in to see him. 

"SharJkey still wants to fight Jack/ 1 Al Buck grinned. "I !c still thinks 
he can lick him/' In that charming way he lias, Dempscy always cons 
him out of it, telling him that noboclv wants to sec a couple of old men 
fight. And a few years ago, he got Sharkey some work as a ref in the 
Southwest, in territory he'd once toured himself. 

This is not an attempt to make Dempsey seem like an angel among 
men. He wasn't. He was a man like the Western country that raised 
him, wide-open, roughneck, cruel, generous^ wild, and mean* In his 
fighting days, Jack had none of the civilized charm lie has since worked 
so hard to attain* 

Dempsey's old fight camps, the ones at Toledo, Shelby, and Saratoga 
Springs, were the most colorful, bawdy, brawling, and exciting places in 
the history of the ring* They were jam-packed wth the people Dempsey 
loved, the broken-down pugs, the breezy dames, the prank-minded 
sportswriters, the sharp-eyed managers, the battered sparring partners, 
the friends and hangers-on, the old pals from the West, They tore the 
place apart Fights without gloves were common* They drank 
and swirled around their hero, Jack Dempsey, the toughest of them all. 

That was the day of Dempsey and Kearns. The Doc, as Jack called 
him, the wise-cracking, smart, flashily dressed man, the ex-pug gone 
dandy, the only one who could handle the Killer of the Ring. Dempsey 
and the old ballyhoo king were loyal, fine friends then. Kearns* mouth 
and brains, and the Manassa Mauler's courage and punch, had brought 
them a championship. They were the world's most typical fighter-and- 
manager combination. They were more romantic than fiction. They 
were in the tradition of H C. Witwer's famous fiction hero, Kid 
Roberts, and his boss-man. 

Even with the cracked-in, wrinkled nose, Dempsey looked like a 
movie version of a champion of the world. He had a beautiful build, 
wide, magnificently bronzed shoulders, strong neck, narrow waist, legs 
as slim and fast-moving as a dancer's, bright, glittering black eyes and 
blue-black, short-cropped, curly hair. But he cared little about how he 
looked. He didn't worry about preserving his face and body, and that 
added to his glamor. He went into a ring to kill or be killed* 

Dempse/s only real problem in those days was getting sparring part- 
ners. Farmer Lodge, that huge hulk of a man, became a sort of hero on 
the basis of the fact that he stayed with Dempsey as a spar-mate so long, 
and took such a merciless amount of punishment. Dempsey was cruel 
beyond reason toward the men with whom he trained. He expected 
them to be the same way. Sparring with his friend, Gus Wilson, he hit 
him so hard that Gus went to a hospital to have a damaged kidney re- 
moved. Jimmy DeForest, one of Dempsey's best trainers, tells how Jack 
smashed a sparring partner named Jim Johnson so hard that the fighter 
crashed into a ring-post and broke it completely in half. 

Dempsey was all business in the ring. He hated anyone who took it 
easy or clowned. Training for the second Gunboat Smith go, Jack 
sparred one day with a fighter named Clay Turner. The boxer got too 
fancy and playful, danced beyond and behind Dempsey, and tapped 
him playfully on the back of the head. It was just a fun-loving happy 
gesture. Seconds later, Turner was on the floor spitting blood, with three 
of his teeth on the canvas. 

There never was anything like those old fight camps, but they 
changed after Dempsey married Estelle Taylor. Dempsey probably 
loved this beautiful, dark-haired woman more than anyone else in his 
life. And Estelle loved Jack Dempsey. It was a tempestuous, stormy, 
picture-book romance, filled with jealousies and tragedy and, often, high 
humor. They were introduced by the movie-director, Mervyn LeRoy, in 
Hollywood, where Jack had gone to make a picture. They fell in love 
instantly. The match was strongly opposed by Doc Kearns, perhaps for 
sound reasons, perhaps not But it was the beginning of the end of the 
Kearns-Dempsey partnership. Estelle's motion-picture friends and ac- 
quaintances were as down on the marriage as those in Dempsey's camp. 


"Estelle," a famous producer told her, you'll be through in pictures, 
if you marry that pug." 

*Tm not marrying a pug," Estelle flashed back 'Tin marrying a 

They were married. They toured Europe. The rough fighter dis- 
carded the tattered sweaters, gave up the hard, ugly ways that had made 
him so tough. He wore silk underwear and fine suits and attended din- 
ners. He watched his table manners. He even met the Prince of Wales. 
He was feted, pampered, fawned upon. The cold, fighting fury was still 
in him, but it was no longer so close to the surface. 

The fighter and the lady lived at the Rite, in all the fabulous party- 
style and luxurious ease of the fabulous 2o's. It was the way Estelle 
wanted to live, the way she always had lived. Dempsey liked it, but he 
was never at home in it. He never got bitter about what he enjoyed, 
although it quite possibly took the championship of the world away 
from him. 

Estelle Taylor may not have known what changing Dempsey would 
do to him as a fighter. But she had forebodings before the first fight 
with Tunney. Sitting in the lavish surroundings of their Rite suite one 
afternoon in 1926, she said to a close friend, a woman writer, "They 
think he has to sleep in a flop-house bed to be a fighter. They think he 
has to be tough all of the time." And then she added, a little sadly and 
with unconscious clairvoyance, "Perhaps he does, at that." 

Estelle always felt worse about Dempsey's losing the title to Gene 
Tunney than Jack did himself. When he came back to her on the night 
of September 23, 1926, came into the room followed by friends and 
reporters, there were tears in her eyes when she saw his bruised, cut, 
and battered face. She held him closely, and touched the sore spots, and 
said, 'What happened, Dempsey?" 

Jack struggled to get one of his eyes open. He grinned down at her 
with a swollen, raw, pulpy face. "I forgot to duck, honey!" 

Those in the room that night swallowed hard and loved Jack Demp- 
sey more than they ever had before. Those words, spoken without 
rancor and with great, good honesty, made him a champion more than 
his fists had the day he beat the giant at Toledo. He had fought hard, 
He had lost to Tunney fairly, and he was above bitterness or hate, 
Those things were for the ring. The after-battle alibi was not in his code, 

After that, Jack Dempsey was mobbed wherever he went. He became 
the most popular ex-champion the ring had ever known. One night, 
a few months after the Tunney fight, Jack, Estelle, and a friend were 
sitting in the Silver Slipper, a popular Broadway nightclub. For hours 
he was surrounded by friends and admirers. They brought him gifts, 
shook his hands. Dempsey was touched. For years he had been subjected 
to vitriolic abuse. Now, no longer champ, he was adored. 


"When he was up" Estelle Taylor said softly to the friend at the 
table, "they couldn't tear him down fast enough. Now that he's down, 
they can't do enough for him/' 

Dempsey and his lovely wife split up. They were torn apart by 
scandal, by fast living, or, perhaps, because they were too raw and fiery, 
too much filled with jealousy and emotion toward each other. The 
bridge between their two worlds was never quite completed. They 
broke up innumerable times, got together again, finally divorced and 
then, as the years went on, became good friends. 

Even Kearns, who had hounded and abused Dempsey after the break 
in their partnership, was forgiven. Kearns, who had dogged him with 
process servers while Jack was getting ready for the Tunney fight, the 
old pal who took away his belongings, forced his wife to get out of a 
car on the highway, and took that too. He was forgiven all this. It wasn't 
in Dempsey's nature to go on hating Doc Kearns. They had fought too 
many good fights together. Old grudges made Dempsey restless. It was 
better and cleaner to slap a man on the back and say, "Let's forget about 
it, old pardner." So Kearns, too, became a friend once more. 

There is a story Dempsey loves to tell about a time when he was stony 
broke in Kansas City, He had been working as a sparring partner for a 
great ox of a fighter named Carl Morris, readying him for a fight with 
Frank Moran. The fight was called off and Dempsey hung around Kan- 
sas City until he was down to his last eleven cents. 

"I was really busted, pal," Dempsey says. "But there was a promoter 
in town, and I figured maybe he could get me a fight. I knew where he 
ate and I also figured that I would come up on him at chow time. If he 
couldn't get me a fight maybe he might invite me to join him in a bite." 

But Dempsey arrived at the restaurant, the best in town, as the pro- 
moter was getting up from the table. Just before rushing over to where 
he was, Jack handed the hat-check girl his tattered cap. The promoter 
began to walk toward the door, listening to Dempsey's plea that he get 
him a match with Morris, or anybody. 4t l know you can fight, Jack/' 
the promoter said, as they got to the hat-check girl, "but you haven't 

fot a name. Morris is too big for you- Nobody would pay to see you 
ght him." 

Dempsey turned away, sad and embarrassed. In his flustered state, 
anxious to get away, he gave the hat-check girl the penny instead of the 
dime. She let Dempsey get all the way to the door, then she opened her 
mouth and her voice filled the whole restaurant. 

"Say, you big bum!" she yelled. "Come back here and get this penny 
you gave me!" Dempsey slunk back. "Buy yourself a bean sandwich," 
she said with a glare, and slapped the penny into his big palm. 

Dempsey walked dejectedly across the street, met a friend who was 
also broke, and they spent the dime on doughnuts and coffee. Telling 

[65 ] 

about it, Dernpsey's face stretches into a huge grin. "Now that little 
bahe sure called the turn on me. That's just what I was. A Kg burn!" 

He was a broke pug, a fighter looking for a meal and a place to sleep. 
But he was also just three years away from his dream. It was the year 
1916, and in 1919 he was to be heavyweight champion of the world. At 
that time, he never doubted it. The dream burned brightly in him. 
He was proud, he was strong, he was not afraid to work and fight and 
see himself exactly as he was, a tough hobo who would somehow get 
up on the top of the heap. 

The championship never changed what was inside Dempsey. One of 
the most touching stories Gene Tunney ever recorded about Dempsey 
happened while Jack was champ. Gene was just beginning to get a 
reputation. He was sitting one day on a ferryboat between Jersey City 
and New York. The last passengers were just coming aboard when 
Gene's heart began to beat faster. Striding up the plank was a man Gene 
had seen in innumerable pictures. The wide shoulders, the fighting 
face were unmistakable. It was Jack Dempsey, the champion of the 


Gene stopped Dempsey and asked to shake his hand. He told Jack he 
was a fighter, ". * . What impressed me most/* Gene wrote, <( was his 
affable, friendly way. Jack Dempsey is, by nature, one of the most civil 
persons alive, with an instinct for courtesy/' 

Dempsey asked Tunney how things were going. Gene said that he 
was all right, except that he was having trouble with his knuckles. His 
right hand was damaged, sore, stubbornly unhealing. Dempsey took 
his hand carefully, examined it thoroughly. He told Tunney how to 
bandage the hand next time he boxed. He said to bandage up die two 
sound knuckles on either side of the injured one with black tape. The 
thickness over the two sound ones would protect the injured one. Then 
he showed Tunney just how to do the taping, giving him expert advice, 
giving him the hard-earned knowledge that years or battering with his 
fists had taught him. 

It was that sore right hand of Tunney's, fully healed because of Jack 
Dempsey's advice, that thudded time and again into the Manassa 
Mauler's face in Philadelphia to take his championship away from him. 
But looking at Tunney's hand that night, encouraging a young fighter, 
was in the Dempsey tradition. 

It began long before when Dempsey was a boy, when he fought with 
the tough kids in the small mountain towns. They bloodied each other's 
noses, battered each other's ribs, then doctored each other up. 

"I was lucky in growing up with a bunch of kids who loved to fight/' 
Dempsey said. 'There were the Campbell boys, Fred Wood, Red and 
Bill Finnegan, Charley Diehl, Jake Fist, my brothers, Bemie and 
Johnny. I don't think there ever was a tougher bunch of kids/* 


Those fights began shaping Dempsey into the killer he was in the 
ring. A fight lasted until the other kid couldn't get up. The sharecrop- 
pers and poor farmers let them fight. Why not? Their kids had to be 
fighters to live. Life was a fight against the elements, against wind and 
storm and poverty. 

Dempsey remembers one of his first fights, when he was eight. He 
was going at it hammer and tongs with a pal named Fred Daniels. They 
were egged on by their fathers. Fred's father, watching young Jack 
butt his head into his son, yelled advice: "Bite him, Fred!" Fred turned 
his head to hear what his father said. Young Dempsey bopped him on 
the chin, and the fight was over, 

Dempsey generally hit every opponent with everything he had. He 
was not, as most people believe, a one-punch knockout artist One punch 
merely started it. That blow was the stunner. Then Dempsey would 
belt home a lightning series of vicious rights and lefts, so fast they 
could hardly be seen, punches that beat his man unconscious. 

The Manassa Mauler was seldom the best boxer in the ring, but he 
was always the best fighter. Tunney found that out at Soldier Field, 
Chicago, in their second fight Dempsey was 32 years old then, his legs 
gone, his punches no longer carrying the steam. But there was still 
enough zip and hate and fury in him for one last, magnificent go. 
Tunney caught the full force of it in the famous seventh round when 
Jack trapped him in a corner and let him have it 

So much has been written about that round and the 'long count" that 
it's almost ridiculous to repeat what happened. Dempsey has taken the 
blame for not going to his corner. He explains it by saying, honestly, 
that he had fought too many fights where you stood over your opponent 
and waited until he got up and then smashed him again. That's what 
he always had done. That's what always had been done to him. You 
can't go against the rules you've fought by. Not when you're dazed 
and exhausted and hungry for the kill. 

If it had been Dempsey who had been knocked down, he would 
have bounced up as soon as he could. He always did. Gene fought 
a smart, magnificent fight He fought the way he had been trained to do. 
But there was something pitiful in the way he kept out of the reach 
of the aging Dempsey, It was Jack Dempsey's last chance and he knew 

In Dempsey's eyes as he chased Tunney was more than the killer 
glare, more than hate. There was pleading, mixed with contempt for 
a man who would not come in and take a chance with him. And then 
he stopped, suddenly, and made that wonderful, dramatic, pawing 
gesture with his gloves and begged Tunney, growling, "Come on. 
Come on in and fight!" He was saying, in a sense, fight his way, the 
way fighters fight Fight die way he did when, blind and reeling and 


bloody, he went charging in on Gunner Smith, the way he went after 
Firpo, out of his head, sick and groggy, but kept coming in. "That's 
the way you should fight. Come on." 

But Tunney retreated. A few rounds later, he clipped Dempsey and 
knocked him down. Dempsey didn't stay down. He got up and came 
In for more, holding his tired body together, forcing his trembling legs 
to support him. Everybody loved Dempsey for that. Everyone the rich 
In their box seats, the screaming, shirt-sleeved men in the high, far- 
away tiers of the stadium, the frenzied women, the kids. Nobody ever 
forgot the way Dempsey was that night. And, for 14 seconds, he was 
the greatest champion of all time. He almost did what no fighter had 
ever done. He almost won the heavyweight title back again. 

In 1940, when FDR was elected again, one of the first people to get 
in to see him and congratulate him on his victoiy was Jack Dempsey. 
Roosevelt always liked prizefighters. He knew them all, and Dempsey 
was one of his favorites. They talked about the fight in Chicago. 

"Well, that fight is over, Jack/' Roosevelt smiled. "And so is this 
one. I guess you know how it came out." 

Then, as Dempsey told it, the President put out his right arm and 
asked Dempsey to feel it. "I felt it," Jack said. "Say, that fellow had a 
hell of a strong right arm. You know what he said to me? 'Jack,' he 
said, If your legs were still as good as my arm, you'd still be champion. 
That's the trouble with us, Jack; our legs have gone back orx us/ " 

In his lifetime in the ring, the Manassa Mauler fought 148 fights. He 
won 1 08 of them by knockouts, only 25 by decision, and one on a foul. 
He fought five draws, lost four decisions, and was kayoed only once, 
Four bouts were ruled no decision. The few times Dempsey talked to 
the late President, it always surprised him how much Roosevelt knew 
about his past ring engagements and his early history. It is strange, in a 
sense, because no two men could have had so completely different back- 
grounds. And yet, although Roosevelt did not come from the common 
people, he knew them. He knew their hardships, their aspirations, and 
their hopes. He also knew who their heroes were and why they wor- 
shipped them. And Jack Dempsey was one of those idols. 

William Harrison Dempsey was born in a two-room, one-story, 
wooden cabin on the outskirts of Manassa, Colorado. It was on June 24, 
1895, and he was the ninth child in a family of n children. Celia 
and Hiram Dempsey, pioneer people, had moved their family from 
Logan, West Virginia, to Manassa on a $300 stake. They came from 
"feud" country, and were related to the famous Hatfields who fought the 
equally famous McCoys. 

Dempsey's ancestry is as mixed as is most early American stock. Celia 
Dempsey was Scotch-Irish on her father's side and Cherokee Indian 
on her mother's, and one of her great grandfathers was Jewish. Hiram 


Dempsey, Jack's father, came from the hardy Irish people of County 
Kildare. The Dempseys were roving, restless, courageous people, spring- 
ing from ancestors who first dared to cross the Alleghanies. They carried 
on the pioneer tradition, moved West across the treacherous Rockies, 
and took part in the building of the Western Empire. Hiram Demp- 
sey was a sharecropper, a hunter, a dirt-poor farmer, a worker who swung 
a pick on the railroad. He moved his family all over Colorado and Utah. 

Hiram Dempsey tried hard, but there was seldom enough for his 
family. Jack remembers driving to town with him as a boy and buying 
five dollars worth of staples to last them a month. He remembers hunt- 
ing and fishing for meat. He remembers working the hard earth for 
food. The Dempsey family lived in a succession of crowded shacks. The 
older children moved out into the world on their own just as soon as 
they could, to make room for the younger ones. Harry, as Jack was 
called then, and one of his sisters, Elsie, were the only ones who had 
even a grammar-school education. 

All through his childhood, Jack Dempsey lived just barely beyond 
the reach of hunger. The Dempseys were poor when Jack was born, and 
still poor when he left home to roam the country. With the exception 
of Joe Louis, no heavyweight champion ever came from a background 
of such hard, unending poverty as Jack Dempsey. As a child, he never 
had a piece of store-candy. The toys he played with were whittled out 
of wood by his older brothers. He was shuttled from place to place by 
wagon. Over the Great Divide to Wagon Wheel Gap, where his mother 
tried to eke out a living running a boarding house. Then Montrose, 
where his father worked on the railroad, and his mother tried her Band 
at running a restaurant called the Rio Grande Eating House. 

Before Dempsey was 12, his life as a working stiff began. He chopped 
wood, hauled coal, toiled in the beet fields, shined shoes in a barber 
shop, hung around pool rooms and fair grounds picking up odd jobs. He 
does not remember this time with sorrow. There were good things too. 
He managed to find time to roam the woods and mountains. He became 
an expert trapper and hunter. He not only looked like a young Indian 
physically, but he became as self-sufficient, as stoical, as hard. Years 
later, when Dempsey was rich and went hunting and trapping for sport, 
his companions were always amazed by his knowledge of wild life and 
the great outdoors. 

The first name "Jack" was adopted by three of the Dempsey boys. The 
oldest one, Bernie, took the name because of a popular middleweight 
champion of the time, Jack Dempsey, the "Nonpareil" Bernie fought 
many fights through the West, as did Johnny. 

It was Bernie who taught his younger brothers, Harry and Johnny, 
how to strike blows and how to duck. They made their own punching 
bags out of sawdust and rags. They fought with bare fists or workmen's 

I 69 ] 

gloves stuffed with padding. They chewed gum incessantly to make 
their jaws strong and knockout-proof. 

"We all wanted to be world's heavyweight champion/' Dempsey said. 
"I remember one day my brother Bernie opened a package of cigarettes 
and a little cardboard picture of Jack Johnson fell out. We all dived 
for it, fighting and clawing. I got it. I carried it around for years. He was 
the man I thought I'd have to beat." 

When Dempsey finished the eighth grade he left home. He took to 
the freights, with less than two dollars in his pocket. It was the begin- 
ning of the years of restless roving, working, and fighting. He toiled 
as a ditch digger, switched ties under steam shovels, picked peaches 
for two dollars a day, worked as a bouncer in dancehalls, a loader in 
copper mines, a pick-and-shovel man in coal mines. When it started, 
he was not yet 16 years old. 

Dempsey's face and fists became known to railroad cops, to tough 
hobos, to panhandlers, grifters, the raggedy lot that rode the fast mails 
and fruit trains, East to West. There were always fights, and Dempsey 
was generally in them. They were die sort of fights that sometimes 
ended in a trip to the undertaker if you lost. Fights in the box cars of 
trains, in back alleys, in barrooms and freight yards. That life added to 
Jack Dempse/s toughness. That life took up the job his hard childhood 
had begun. He soaked his hands and face in brine to toughen, them. It 
took a terrible blow to cut his face. He wanted it that way. It was harder 
to fight with blood in your eyes. 

In most towns, fights were not even legal then. Promoters were scarce. 
Dempsey promoted his first fight himself. He drifted in off the rods to 
the town of Montrose, Colorado, to look up some pals. Fred Woods, 
the 2oo-pound blacksmith's son, was still the toughest guy in the local- 
ity, the most skillful fighter. 

"Hey, Fred/' Dempsey said. "How would you like to fight me? Well 
hire a place and make some dough.** 

Woods agreed. Dempsey hired a ramshackle building called Moose 
Hall. He strung up a ring, using clothesline rope, and got sawdust for 
the ring floor. He was his own manager and trainer, working out in the 
back of the blacksmith's shop. On the night of the fight, Dempsey stood 
at the door collecting the money. When he had taken in as much as he 
thought he could get, he walked into the ring, took off his trousers and 
hung them on the ring-post* He wanted that money to be where he 
could watch it. 

When the fight started, Dempsey forgot about the money. He was too 
busy slugging Woods and getting slugged back. The first round was 
about even. In the fourth round, one of Woods' wild swings from the 
floor caught Dempsey in the stomach and doubled him up. He sat down, 
bounced up again, and then tore into Woods with rights and lefts. A 


chopping, powerful punch almost tore Fred's head off. His eyes went 
glassy and he sunk to the floor. Dempsey stood over him snarling. Then 
the anger left his face. He rushed over to a corner, grabbed a bucket of 
water, and tossed it in Woods' face. When the big blacksmith came 
around, he wanted to fight some more. 

'Take it easy," Dempsey said in his ear. 'The fight's over. They got 
enough for their money. You and me are partners." 

Woods got up, smiled, shook Dempsey's hand. They divided the $46 
that Jack had taken in at the door and went out to celebrate. 

Watching that fight was a veteran pug named Andy Malloy, a man 
who had been in tank-town rings all over the West, and in Mexico. He 
had once taken on Dempsey's brother Bernie, and given him a terrible 
shellacking. Malloy approached Dempsey after the fight and said he 
would take him on. Jack agreed with enthusiasm. 

A miner named Buck Weaver staged the Dempsey-Malloy fight in 
a dancehall in Durango, Colorado. Andy was 1 1 years older than Demp- 
sey, an experienced man in the ring. For the first five rounds, his jabs 
and uppercuts beat like rain against Dempsey's face. But Jack wouldn't 
go down. Malloy began to tire, and then Dempsey took over and began 
chopping him to bits. After the loth round, the sheriff stepped in and 
stopped the fight. It was all the gore he could allow in a "boxing exhibi- 
tion." He called the fight a draw. 

Dempsey and Malloy went back to Montrose and staged another fight 
in Moose Hall. This time, in the first two rounds, Malloy had Dempsey 
groggy, his knees wobbling. But at the start of the third round Dempsey 
sailed back out as though the fight had just begun. He had the kill in 
his eyes as he battered through Mallo/s defense* He knocked him stiff 
with a left hook. When Malloy came to, he grinned up at Dempsey. 

"Kid," he said, "you're too good to be riding the rails. I'm gonna teach 
you how to be a fighter." 

With the exception of Jack Kearns, there never was any manager and 
friend that Jack Dempsey liked as well as Andy Malloy. He could not 
make a boxer of Dempsey, although he tried hard, but he taught Jack 
all the tricks of the trade he had picked up in the resin-soaked rings of 
the West. He showed Dempsey how to improve the punches that had 
knocked him out, how to get more weight behind them. He had him 
punch the bag with lead weights in his hands to pick up power and 
drive and to strengthen his muscles. 

The first fight Malloy arranged for Dempsey was in a Colorado town 
named Olathe, There was a winner-take-all agreement, but before the 
fight started, the sheriff stepped in and said the boys would have to 
wresde; he couldn't allow a prize-fight. Dempsey's big opponent 
slammed Jack to the mat in two straight falls, and picked up all the 

[7* J 

Malloy got hungry and took a job in a mine. Dempsey went back to 
the road. He hit Salt Lake City and fought several mauling fights there. 
He fought in Price, Provo, Ogden. He fought three fights with a mur- 
derous husky named Jack Downey, for a total of $30. They fought in 
the Garrick Theater, and Jack took a terrible pasting in the first go, got 
a draw the second time, and knocked Downey cold in the third. Demp- 
sey fought men who outweighed him 30 and 40 and even 50 pounds. 
He picked up managers and dropped them. He traveled all over the 
West, fighting fierce brawls, winning most of them by knockouts, until 
few would fight him. He had to go back to the mines to make a Jiving. 

Jack's brother, Bernie, was the foreman on one of Jack's first jobs in 
a copper mine south of the Great Salt Lake. Young Dempsey, still in his 
teens, toiled 3,000 feet underground as a mucker, lie worked his way 
up to timber man, then to miner, for the magnificent salary of six dollars 
a day. Once, when he was breaking out ore, a big, tough gent teased him 
by dropping chunks of dirt on his neck. Dempsey went up the bank 
after him. It was a kid against a man, but Dempsey knocked him cold 
in a few minutes. If the other miners hadn't intervened, he might have 
killed him. 

Dempsey's father tried to stake an old claim on a coal mine back in 
Logan, West Virginia, and Jack went out to help him. It fizzled out, and 
Dempsey took a job shoveling coal at 50 cents a day. He wound up back 
in Colorado with Bernie, who got him another job in the Cripple Creek 
Mine and a bout against a tremendous barrel-chested, grizzly bear of a 
man named George Copelin. 

Dempsey was not used to the altitude. Copelin was. As the rounds 
wore on, the fighters charged and slugged and ripped each other with 
fierce blows. Dempsey's face soon was almost unrecognizable. Copelin 
was covered with blood from his chest to the top of his head. 

Let Dempsey tell it. 'The rounds began to blur together. When I took 
a breath, it was like I was on fire. I had knocked Copelin clown again 
and again, but he kept getting up. I had been down myself, I don't know 
how many times. I told Bernie I was through. He would get me the 
next round. Bernie said he was as dead as I was. 

"I went out at the bell. Rush him! That's all I thought Rush him and 
swing just once more. I felt his face hit my glove, I didn't know whether 
I could stay on my feet. If he got up again, I would fall down in his 
place. Then I felt somebody lift my hand over my head and I had won/' 

Dempsey got $50 for that fight. And then went on clown to Goldfield, 
Nevada, for those two savage tiffs with Sudcnberg, After those battles, 
he began wandering the West again, picking up fights wherever he 
could. He weighed only 165 to 170 at the time, and he would take on 
anyone. His eyes were still on the championship, but the more he 
fought, the further he seemed away from it. 


It was the year 1916. Two young men stood gawking in Times Square. 
One was a pleasant-faced, regular-featured, slim young man named Jack 
Price, The other was a tough-looking, wide-shouldered, shy but scowl- 
ing roughneck with the unmistakable scars and nervous manners of a 
pug. The fighter was Jack Dempsey. He was 21 years old. He had sev- 
eral years of fighting behind him. Price was his new manager. They 
had made enough in bouts in Utah and Nevada to try a go at the big 
city. They were eager and scared and filled with hope and touched with 
despair. They had $27 between them. 

Nobody had ever heard of Jack Dempsey in New York. The tattered 
newspaper clippings which Price showed to promoters drew little inter- 
est. But Price finally got Jack a bout with a 21 5-pound giant named 
Andre Anderson at the Fairmont Athletic Club on I49th Street and 
Third Avenue. 

Billy Gibson, who later became Tunney's manager, owned the Fair- 
mont Club. He came around one day to Grupp's gym to watch Dempsey 
work out Jack weighed 173 pounds, and Gibson, watching Dempsey, 
turned to Price and said: "This fight ought to be called off. Anderson will 
murder your boy, and it'll hurt the reputation of my club." 

That was always the thing they said about Dempsey in the days when 
he fought the giants. At least, that's what they said before they saw him 
fight. Jack and Anderson fought 10 rounds. For the first five rounds, 
Anderson, a hard-hitting boxer, smeared Jack's nose all over his face. 
By the tenth round, Dempsey had the big man cowering and covering 
to protect himself. 

Dempsey and Price got exactly $16 for that fight. The next match, a 
rougher go with a bruiser named Wild Bert Kenney, netted the Demp- 
sey-Price combo $43. Dempsey won the fight, knocking Kenney down 
three times in a last-round slug-fest 

Around the gyms in New York, fighters and hangers-on began to talk 
about this 'little guy" Dempsey who fought like a fury. Then Jack Price 
got a telegram saying his mother was dying in Salt Lake City, and he 
sold his interest in Dempsey to get enough money to go home. The 
buyer was a hard-boiled, cold-hearted man named John Reisler, known 
in fight circles as "Jolm the Barber," John ran a barber shop when he 
wasn't promoting fights or managing. 

Reisler paid Dempsey off in meals and free shaves and haircuts. He 
unscrupulously overmatched the youngster with a burly Negro fighter 
named John Lester Johnson. Nobody in town would fight the massive 
Johnson at that time, but the kid from Manassa took him on at the 
Harlem Sporting Club. It was a fight that even the most hardened fans 
did not enjoy watching. 

In the second round, Johnson caught Dempsey with a piledriver right 
hand that broke two of Jack's ribs. For the next three rounds, Dempsey 

[73 ] 

fought doubled up. The pain was too great for him to stand even half 
erect. But he went on fighting for 10 rounds, and earned what some 
sportswriters called a draw. He was promised $500 for the fight, but he 
got $100, which went for hospital bills. John the Barber was disgusted 
because Dempsey would be out of commission for months. He refused 
to carry him. Dempsey, flat broke, had to leave New York, and bum 
West again to the mines. 

But it was that body punch of Johnson's that eventually made Demp- 
sey a champion. He reasoned that if a punch to the body could do that 
much harm, he would learn how to use it. The giants that Dempsey 
fought after that came to fear the way the Manassa Mauler would 
pump buzz-saw rights and lefts to their bodies, cutting them down to 
his height, making them bring their guards down, and then blasting 
them in the jaw. Other fighters paid dearly for what Johnson did to 

Dempsey worked in the mines until his ribs healed. Then he knocked 
out a fighter named Young Hector at Salida, Colorado, collected $300, 
and hit the road back to New York. John Reisler was ready to get him 
another match. He wanted Dempsey to fight Gunboat Smith. The Gun- 
ner was the third ranking heavyweight in the country. For once, Demp- 
sey said no. 

"I knew/' Jack explained, "that Gunboat Smith was too good. My 
already battered dream of winning the championship would be knocked 
through the ropes if, at this stage of the game, I pounded myself to 
death against fighters who were still too good for me." 

Dempsey also turned down a fight against Frank Moran, then touted, 
along with Carl Morris and Gunner Smith, as the next challenger of 
the champion, Big Jess Willard. It was the wisest thing Dempsey ever 
did. He later went on to beat all three of these men under the guidance 
of Kearns, 

Reisler dropped Dempsey and the fighter went back West a second 
time, to take on a promising heavyweight named Fireman Jim Flynn. 
The fight was held in the town of Murray, on the outskirts of Salt Lake 
City. Bernie came on to act as Jack's second in the ring. Still a crude 
and unfinished fighter, Dempsey didn't even warm up before going into 
the ring against the highly-touted Flynn. He went in "cold/* rushed 
Flynn, who caught him with a beautiful right wallop that sent him 
crashing to the canvas, Dempsey got up. He rushed. Flynn caught him 
again. It happened three times. Bernie, in the comer, couldn't take it 
any longer, and tossed in the towel. 

In the dressing room, in a raging black and bitter mood, Dempsey 
berated his brother. "When you tossed in that towel/' he said, "there 
went the championship." 

"You'd never be champion if he killed you/ 1 Bemie said* 

[74 ] 

"I wish he had," Dempsey said. 

Dempsey was dogged by all sorts of adverse criticism in Bis life, but 
nothing hurt him so deeply as the accusation that he tossed that fight 
to Flynn. Throwing a fight is the worst thing you could accuse a man 
like Dempsey of doing. On the face of it, common sense judgment 
would indicate that Dempsey would not have thrown that fight for all 
the money in the mint. The years of knocking about, of fighting for 
small purses, had just about come to an end when Dempsey met Flynn. 
He was beginning to get a reputation. The Flynn fight ruined all that. 
He had to start all over again. 

It was rough going now to get fights. But Dempsey somehow man- 
aged to get them and, against one of the best heavies in the country, 
Al Norton, he scored a one-round knockout. Out in San Francisco, a 
sharp-eyed man named Jack Kearns began to take notice of a kid named 
Dempsey. Then Kearns read that Dempsey had beaten a former fighter 
of his named Joe Bonds, a very classy heavyweight. 

Kearns sent for Dempsey. He mailed him a railroad ticket from Salt 
Lake City to Oakland, enclosing five dollars for meals. That five bucks 
for eats impressed Dempsey more than anything Kearns ever did for 
him. Years later, when the millions began to roll in, it was Dempsey 
who insisted that Kearns get 50 percent of everything he made in the 
ring. Not until long after Dempsey had become champion of the world 
did they have a written contract. 

Jack Kearns wasn't on hand when Dempsey got to Frisco. He had left 
instructions, however, that Dempsey was to live at the Kearns* home in 
Oakland. Mrs. Kearns treated young Dempsey as though he were her 
own son. She became "Mother Kearns" to him, almost as beloved as his 
own mother. She was a sweet and gracious and wonderfully warm per- 
son. She took in the road-hardened bum and gave him a home such as 
he had never known. 

Dempsey and Kearns became as close as brothers. At first, Doc brought 
him along slowly, got on to Dempsey's ways, arranged matches that 
would give him confidence and experience. Then, one night about a 
year after their first meeting, Kearns told Dempsey that he had arranged 
a match with Gunboat Smith. This time, Dempsey was ready. 

The Gunner Smith-Dempsey fight, at the Mission Ball Park in San 
Francisco, was the turning point in the Manassa Mauler's career. No- 
body but Doc Kearns conceded Dempsey a chance. It was a foregone 
conclusion that the Gunner would lower the boom on Dempsey, finish 
him off fast with one of his tremendous fists. But it turned out to be a 
fight. A hell of a fight. Nobody remembers less about what happened 
after the second round than Jack Dempsey. 

In the second frame, the Gunner maneuvered Dempsey into a corner. 
He got his opening and let the kid have it. It was a right swing to the 

- [75] 

jaw, catching Dempsey coming in. Smith put his shoulders into it. The 
men in the top row of the grandstand heard the smack. Dcmpsey's knees 
wobbled. He fell into the Gunner and hung on. And then he began 
fighting. He fought in a fog, in a haze of cobwebs, fought with all the 
fury of his six years of being a life-battered bum, of taking it on the 
chin for nothing, fought with a deadly, furious hatred, fought intui- 

On the ferry boat on the way back to Oakland, Dempsey looked at 
Keams with misery in his eyes. He muttered incoherently. Kcarns leaned 
over and patted his shoulder, smiling. 

"I guess this fight washes me up/' Dempsey mumbled * . * "I'm 
sorry . . sorry." 

It dawned on Keams then that Dempsey thought he had lost, 

"What's the matter with you?" Kcarns shouted. "Listen to me, kid, 
you won! Boy, you're going to be the next champion." 

Dempsey began to come out of the punch-drunk mists. He had re- 
membered not one thing after Gunner Smith connected in that second 
round. Slowly the corners of his mouth began to turn up in a painful 
smile and he looked at Kearns in amazement He had xvon! He couldn't 
believe it ... 

Doc Kearns began to open his mouth about Dempsey. Out of that- 
clever and publicity-minded mouth came some of the greatest ballyhoo 
talk of the century. Kearns proclaimed Dempsey the coming champion. 
He offered $10,000 to any fighter who could lick him. lie hit the news- 
papers across the nation with colorful and exciting stories about his 
young giant killer, the Manassa Mauler, the toughest man ever to come 
out of the West, 

Kearns talked, Dempsey fought. He took on the big Cherokee slug- 
ger, Carl Morris, and beat him in a fierce fight* Morris weighed 235 
pounds, stood six feet four inches, and was the top-ranking contender 
for the crown. To stay out of the way of Morris' sledgehammer fists, 
Dempsey had to bob and weave. It was the beginning of his famous 
style, the manner in which he always beat men bigger than himself, 

The life with Kearns was a new one for Dempsey. They rode the 
cushions to Chicago, slept in the best hotels, wore silk shirts, ate in die 
flashiest restaurants. In Chicago Kearns' tales about Dempsey grew more 
fantastic and wonderful He offered to bet 10 grand that Dempsey 
could beat any two fighters in the world in one night It was a bluff, 
Kearns didn't have the 10 thousand then. But the presses began to roll 
about Jack Dempsey, Crowds gathered at Kid Howard's gym in Chicago 
to see the young wonder work out. They always went away disappointed* 
All his life Dempsey never looked good in gym fighting. 

But in the ling a few weeks later against the massive, powerful 
Homer Smith, a six-foot, three-inch clouter, Dempsey was everything 

I 76] 

Keams had said he was. Just before the gong sounded for the first 
round, Reams growled into Dempsey's ear those words from manager 
to fighter that were to become famous as ring talk. 

"Kid, pull up your socks and smack that big bum down." 

Dempsey scowled and went in. The fight lasted one minute and 55 
seconds. Dempsey viciously battered the big man to the canvas. 

A few days later, Jack was in the ring against still another fighter, 
against the man who 12 months before had knocked him out, Fireman 
Jim Flynn. They fought in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. It was a different 
Dempsey this time. Fie spent a half-hour warming up before the fight 
and knocked out Jim Flynn midway through the first round. Now he 
was really climbing up there, 

From February 14, 1918 to July 4, 1919, the Manassa Mauler belted 
his way through the biggest and best heavyweights in the country. He 
fought 23 battles, winning 20 of them by knockouts, 16 of them in the 
first round. The fight that set him up for the title, the one that gained 
him his greatest reputation as a giant killer, was the go against the six- 
foot, six-inch Goliath, Fred Fulton. They fought in Harrison, New 
Jersey, on July 27, 1918. Dempsey cooled him in 18 seconds, one of 
the quickest KO's in heavyweight history. 

Only one man in those days ever gave Jack Dempsey any serious 
trouble. He was a fat, jolly, but tough customer named Slapper Willie 
Meehan. The corpulent Meehan looked slow in the ring, but he was 
one of the cleverest boxers of his time, a cutie in close, a dazzling 
counter-puncher. Dempsey lost two decisions to Meehan, and won one. 
It was one of those strange things in fight history. Meehan, never a top- 
rate fighter, always gave Dempsey a tough time. 

With the exception of Carpentier, Dempsey never looked as good 
against smaller men as he did against the bigger ones. Billy Miske, Jack 
Downey, Tommy Gibbons, and Gene Tunney always made things 
rough for the Mauler. He never seemed to be able to keep up that killer 
instinct against them. Fie never liked boxers. He liked to fight. 

When Jack Dempsey won the heavyweight title of the world from 
Jess Willard on July 4, 1919, It should have been the happiest time of 
his life. It wasn't. Even though he had lived up to his reputation, and 
beaten a man five inches taller and 60 pounds heavier, Dempsey's satis- 
faction was short-lived. He knew he was not a popular champion. He 
was envied, but not loved. He was shy, uneducated, painfully unfitted 
for the social life that goes with being a champion. 

Jack's difficulties with the U. S. Government during World War I 
didn't help him any. He was just clawing his way to the top when the 
war broke out, and he got a job in an Oakland, California, shipyard. 
Naturally, he was accused widely of being a slacker. The Government 
made a test case out of Jack's action, seeking to establish whether or not 


a worker In such an essential industry was exempt from the draft* Jack 
won the case. He was acquitted. But the stigma of alleged draft evasion 
clung to him for years. No help to him was the famous picture taken 
of him in working clothes, with shiny black patent leather shoes peeking 
out from under his dungarees. 

"My life up to then was like a war/* Dempsey said. "It seemed there 
would be no end to it. 1 fought and fought. I thought I never would be 
champ. But there was something to shoot at. And then one day the war 
ended. I was the champion. It was all over. 

"When you're a champion/' Dempsey went on simply, "they take 
your life away from you. They put you on the stage. They put you in 
nightclubs. They take away the fresh air. They make you live the life 
of a gentleman of the city, I didn't belong. I knew it. Now I belong/' 
he smiled slowly. "Now it's natural. But it \vasn't then. I was just a 
tough guy out of my element" 

When the Manassa Mauler fought Georges Carpenter, it was a bitter 
thing for Kim to know that most Americans were pulling for the French- 
man to win. The gallant Carpentier, a smiling handsome man with an 
enviable war record, captured the hearts and imaginations of fight fans* 
Staged by the great promoter Tex Rickard, the fight drew the first mil- 
lion-dollar gate. Nearly a hundred thousand people jammed into Boyle's 
Thirty Acres to see the classy French fighter go up against the killer. 

What a contrast the two men made in the ring! Carpentier with his 
smiling, friendly face, classic profile, his beautiful body covered by a 
well-cut, expensive dressing robe. And Dempsey. Dempsey wearing the 
scowl on his unshaven, pugnacious fighter's face. Over his powerful 
chest was the old red jersey he had worn in training. 

The event was packed with drama, but it was not a great fight. The 
tough guy beat up the gentleman. Carpentier proved only what every- 
body knew. He had courage and was willing to fight. But he was in 
the ring against a man who was stronger and tougher and could hit 
harder. And Dempsey was too much of a fighter to carry him. After 
57 seconds of the fourth round, after Carpentier had taken the Mauler's 
vicious pounding, he couldn't get up and go on. He was never the same 
after that fight. 

The 1923 fight against Tommy Gibbons in Shelby, Montana, was the 
worst fiasco as a fight that Dempsey ever fought as a champion. The 
bankers and promoters of the small town went broke staging the bout. 
The battle was a long, dull affair* Gibbons outboxed the champion, but 
Dempsey's aggressiveness gave him a wide margin on points. Kearns 
and Dempsey had to get out of town fast to keep from being mobbed 
by irate fight fans and the broke, small-town, promoters* 

But three months later, the Arills that were packed into the two 
rounds that the Manassa Mauler fought against Firpo completely erased 


the stigma of the Shelby fight. Jack was the Dempsey of old that night 
It was a return to the David-and-Goliath fights that had made the name 
of Dempsey ring across the land. It was the last fight Jack Dempsey won 
as a champion and undoubtedly one of his greatest. 

When the bell sounded for the second round, every person in the 
Polo Grounds was still standing. They saw the unbelievable. They saw 
Jack Dempsey come out of his corner, hooking, weaving, throwing 
punches at the big man who had knocked him out of the ring. Firpo 
went down. He got up. Dempsey was standing over him, ready for the 
kill. Firpo went down again. Once more he got up. But it was the last 
time. The clock read 57 seconds when the final count was finished. The 
hand of the Manassa Mauler was held high in the air. 

In the three years that passed before Jack Dempsey fought Gene Tun- 
ney, all that had made Dempsey the greatest fighting machine of his 
time crumbled away and was gone forever. The i8th champion of the 
world was 31 years old. He was out of shape. Three years of inactivity 
had dulled the spirit, softened the punch, killed the ferocity. His old 
friend, Doc Kearns, who had split with him, was harassing him with 
law suits. "Every time I hit a punching bag," Dempsey told reporters, 
"I expect a summons to fall out/' 

The first Tunney fight was held in the rain in the gigantic Sesqui- 
Centennial Stadium in Philadelphia. Slowly, as the rounds dragged on, 
as Tunney's counter-punching began to take effect, Dempsey saw the 
title slipping away. He hated to lose it. But he lost it like a champion. 

Once, between rounds, Dempsey gave himself the old command that 
Doc Kearns had growled in his ear so many times. "Pull up your socks 
and smack the big bum down/* He came out with a rush. He charged 
into Tunney with some of the old fury. But there wasn't enough. And 
from then on, he settled down to take the beating, concentrating on only 
one thing staying on his feet. He stayed. His face was not pretty to see 
at the close of the fight. He could barely lift his hands above his shoul- 
ders. The title was gone. . . . 

The dressing room after the Dempsey-Tunney fight was filled with 
people who didn't know what to say. They came over to the tired and 
puffy-faced ex-champion, patted his shoulder sympathetically, and mum- 
bled regrets. Dempsey sat on a wooden table, his head down, hiding his 

Over in a corner, a poorly dressed, thin-faced derelict of a man who 
had slipped into the room unnoticed, watched the proceedings with cal- 
loused eyes. Suddenly the room was very quiet. The old Manassa 
Mauler glanced up and noticed the old fellow. He looked, Dempsey 
said, like one of the countless bums he had ridden the rods with in his 
early days, one of the nameless faces of the hard and hungry past Their 
eyes met for an instant. 

f 79] 

The old fellow spoke. "Hi, Jack." 

"Hello, pal/' Dempsey said. 

The old geezer grinned and shook his head. 'This shouldn't be like 
no wake," he said to the room, "What if he is still the champion and 
what if he ain't? He's young, ain't he? He's got dough, ain't he? He's 
famous, ain't he? I ask you what's the championship of the world to 
a guy like that?" 

Dempsey got up and walked over to the old fellow. He put his hand 
on his shoulders. "Those are pretty smart words, pardner. Ill remem- 
ber 'em/ 1 

Dempsey has said that the best job he has ever had in his life was 
being the champion, and the next best job was being the ex-champion. 
Sentiment changed toward the Manassa Mauler. Like a gong that had 
ended a round, all the old grudges and malice and dislike melted away 
under the warmth and genuine humility and greatness of the new 

He beat a stronger, younger man, Jack Sharkey, a man with a fine 
boxing skill and a strong punch. He climbed back into the ring again 
against Tunney in Chicago, on September 22, 1927, still full of fight, 
still scowling. 

In that thrilling seventh round, the men who had been boys when 
the Manassa Mauler was belting down the giants, saw a brief and beau- 
tiful flash of the old killer in action. It was wonderful, but nobody knew 
better than Jack Dempsey that it was his last rush, the last charge that 
he would make, the last flurry of the vicious stunning blows that had 
made him a champion. And, for 14 seconds, he was the champion again. 

The old itch to fight kept coming back. It is still in him. At 37 years 
of age, Dempsey consented to fight four rounds against a rising, 21 -year- 
old fighter named Kingfish Levinsky. He took another licking, grinned 
about it, shook his head and said, "A man should know when he's 
through. It wasn't Levinsky that made me realize it, it was Old Man 
Time/' But the fans who had booed and hissed him at Shelby, Mon- 
tana, who had wanted to see Georges Carpentier, a Frenchman, beat 
him, at Boyle's Thirty Acres, now stood up and cheered him to the raft- 
ers, crowded his dressing room, told him he was the greatest fighter 
that ever lived, shook his hand and said that Dempsey could have licked 
Levinsky with one hand in his youth. 

Dempsey got married again, this time to the singer Hannah Williams. 
They had two girls, Joan and Barbara. Strollers in Central Park often 
saw Dempsey out with the carriage, followed by kids and well wishers, 
When they were divorced, the world was happy because Dempsey was 
given custody of his children. He has given mem the best in life, the 
things he never had. 

The second world war came. Dempsey went down to enlist, The doc- 


tors marvelled at the condition of the 5o-year-old man who had lived life 
up to the hilt. He went into the Coast Guard, instructed in physical 
training, ref ereed fights on boats shuttling GIs to Europe and the Pacific. 
And, on one of these boats, an incident occurred that added one final 
touch to the legend of the Manassa Mauler. 

Dempsey had been refereeing fights aboard the S.S. Wakefield. One 
big, bruising heavyweight was giving the old mauler a lot of trouble. 
This fellow, an ex-pro, swaggered around the ship boasting that he could 
lick anybody on board. Dempsey had xefereed several of his matches 
and the big 2io-pounder was almost as good as he said he was. One 
afternoon the ex-pro fought a three-rounder with a smaller man who 
gave him a terrific fight. Dempsey called it a draw. The bruiser saw red, 
accused Dempsey of unfairness, turned on him snarling, and said, "You 
know damn well I can lick anybody on this lousy tub. How about you? 
Wanna start something?" 

Dempsey scowled. He tried to keep his temper. He knew how old 50 
Is. But the GIs aboard didn't know. To them, he was still Jack Dempsey, 
an idol, a man who could lick anybody. They egged the fight on. The 
big pro sneered and dared Dempsey to face him* It was too much for 
the old Manassa Mauler. 

"I should have known better," Jack grinned, telling about it. 'He gave 
me quite a pasting in that first round." 

The second round came up. The big pro came out, smiling meanly, 
moving in for the kill. Suddenly another man moved in the ring. It was 
Dempsey, In a blinding now-or-never rush, the old legs carried him 
forward with lightning speed, the right hand sunk into the other fighter's 
body, the old mauler's left hook crashed through like a rocket. The big 
man went down and out. Fie was as cold as the ocean spray. The GIs 
screamed and pounded each other on the back. The scowl on Dernpsey's 
face changed to a grin. He looked at his hands. He was not through, 
after all. Maybe he never would be. 

On Okinawa, on D-Day, the assault troops crouched in one of the 
landing craft, looked anxiously at the shore, at the hills beyond the 
beaches where the big guns had been pounding for days. They squatted 
on their haunches, peered anxiously over the side, held their weapons 
in tense arms. Then one of them looked over at another of the craft 
going beachward alongside of them. "Hey, look," he yelled. "Ain't that 
Jack Dempsey?" 

They waved at Dempsey. Jack waved back. "Hi, pals, see you on 
Broadway," Some of them did get back, and did go in to see him on 
Broadway. They came in and are still coming in to shake his hand, to 
pat his massive back, to talk about the things of war, their war. They 
come to get the genuine Jack Dempsey autograph, to listen to the champ 
say a few words about his old fights and the days when his scowl and 

his fists made him the toughest guy in the ring, the Manassa Mauler* 
the world champion. 

Way down in this corner is a tribute to the life-battered bum who 
became a beloved man, to the courageous fighter who would never quit, 
to the old Manassa Mauler and the gentleman, Jack Dempsey. It has 
been a long time since he was last seen, crouching and weaving in the 
ring. But the memory of the way he was still remains. The legend of 
Dempsey has been riveted into ring history. He stands with the greatest 
fighters of all time, an unparalleled heavyweight champion of the 
world, a man who never backed away from anyone in the ring, or from 
the blows dealt in a magnificent, hard, and glorious life. 

f 82] 

outa m y wa y> ^, or 

The kid backed away from the plate, dropped long arms that 
reached almost to the knees of his bow legs. He had been play- 
ing as a regular in the Louisville outfield for five days and every time 
he had tried to take his turn in batting practice he had been driven 
away. As he came back to the dugout, Manager Fred Clarke met him. 

"Why didn't you take your cuts?" 

'They won't let me," the kid said, pleasantly. 

"Get back in that box, or get off this ball club!" the manager roared. 

The kid, who was 75 years old in 1949, was telling the story as if 
it had happened yesterday, although it actually occurred in 1 897, when 
life was hell on earth for any rookie breaking into the blood-and-thun- 
der, nail-hard National League. He told it with love, his alert, brown 
eyes enjoying each remembered detail, his huge, spike-scarred right paw 
shaking slightly as he told it. 

"So I marched back up to the plate," he chuckled, "and this big 
geezer wheels around and lets a spray of 'bacca juice at my feet and 
asks me what do I think Fm gonna do? So I hoist up my bat and take a 
good aim at his head and I tell him Fm gonna hit at somethdn' and I 
don't much give a damn what it is!" 

As the bat lunged forward, the veteran ballplayer leaped clear, saving 
his noggin a long trip over the left-field fence. And from that day on, 
nobody in the entire National League ever bullied or bothered the 
rugged, quaintly stubborn, amiable, sweet-tempered kid out of the coal 
mines of Carnegie. They stood aside and watched with awe and affec- 
tion as his magnificently bowed legs carried the huge, squat, awkward, 
bearlike frame through 21 years of big league baseball, creating the 
deathless legend of the Flying Dutchman, OF Honus* 

The wonderful Wagner, John Peter (Honus) Wagner, who is almost 
half as old as our nation, began playing organized baseball no years 
after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and he has yet to 


hang up his battered spikes. When spring rolls around, the letters that 
spell out "Pirates" sprawl across his still burly chest, and he lumbers 
forth to have a look at the rookies of this atomic age. At 75, he is the 
oldest ballplayer in uniform. 

No one who knows Honus Wagner, who has hung around the Pitts- 
burgh clubhouse and watched him dress for the day's game, would 
dream of referring to him as an ex-ballplayer. Unlike die other three 
or four great players of all time, the beloved old Dutchman has never 
stopped being a ballplayer. With an impish twinkle in his eyes, wagging 
his heavy, white-thatched head, looking like a Santa Glaus in his baggy, 
bloomers, he will tell you, "I don't play regularly any more. They got 
me down on the roster as a coach/' 

This writer, among others, has written that Ty Cobb was the greatest 
ballplayer in the history of the game. (John J. McGraw, if he were alive, 
would argue all day that Wagner was greater.) But that doesn't matter. 
No player has ever been so completely all "baseball as Honus Wagner, 
Tyrus had other interests beside baseball, hates stronger than the game, 
and a love of money. The Babe was more than a ballplayer. lie became 
a national figure larger than the game itself, heroic to many who had 
never seen baseball played. 

But Wagner, well, Honus was and is a baseball player and, greatly, 
nothing else. In street clothes in one of our American cities, he would 
walk unknown, a shadow. In uniform, or near things related to baseball, 
he gives forth an aura of light, a special glory, becomes the living sym- 
bol of the game, indestructible anid forever young. 

'Wherever we go, Honus is still the first among us/' said Jim Long, 
press representative of the Pirates. "Out in Hollywood where we train, 
on the road, or here in town, Wagner is still the star attraction. He 
gets more attention than Kiner or Westlake, or anyone. Kids whose 
grandfathers saw him play, who at first don't even know who he Is, 
seem to feel that he is the thing to see, to crowd around, to question. 
That's the way it is and it's sort of wonderful, especially for me, who 
saw him play and know how great he was." 

Age has withered Wagner very little, nor staled the infinite variety 
of the stories he tells about baseball. One of his tales about Cap Anson 
seems as fresh as a dropped comment about Joe DiMaggio. No printed 
words can approach the delight of sitting across from Honus and listen- 
ing to the lore that pours out of him. Ask such youngsters as Bing 
Crosby or Pie Traynor about lending an ear to Wagnerian yarns. 

'Wasn't such a friendly spirit between clubs in my day," Honus said 
at a session one afternoon in his home high on a hill overlooking the 
smoky town of Carnegie. "Used to be kinda rough," 

Honus remembers me Giants and Cubs with particular affection, for 
these clubs gave the slashing, rough-and-tumble Pirates their toughest 

[84 I 

competition. Chicago's famed trio, the Tinker to Evers to Chance boys, 
are more than just hazy, legendary figures to Wagner. They are the 
stuff of flesh and blood and the mention of Frank Chance, player- 
manager, brings forth a host of memories. 

"Old Frank was a terror," Honus said* "There was no holds barred 
when we played against those Cubs. One series in Chicago they beat 
us three out of three games and those ginks were climbin' all over us, 
spildn' and punchin' and makin' us miserable." 

As Honus told it, the Pirates limped back to Pittsburgh and after a 
day of rest got set for another series against Chicago. In those days, 
managers seldom pep-talked the players before games. But before the 
start of this second series, Fred Clarke called his Pirates together in the 
dressing room. He was hopping mad. 

"How many of you guys got hurt in that last series?" he yelled. 
"Stand up, let's see you/' 

Six of the nine regulars stood up. 

"All right. Now I'm gonna give a hundred bucks to the man who 
does the most damage to that Cub team!" 

A shout went up. Howie Camnitz, who was pitching that day, climbed 
up on a bench and delivered what, for him, was a long speech. 

"You fellahs know I can't hit," he said. "I won't be able to get on 
base and bounce 'em around that way. I'm gonna win that hunnert 
bucks, though. I'm gonna get two strikes on the batter and then knock 
him down with the next pitch." 

Clarke scowled. "That sounds good. I just want to warn you guys 
that if I catch one of you talkin' to those birds, except to cuss 'em out, 
it will cost you fifty bucks." 

The Pittsburgh team took to the field like an Indian war party and, 
before the sixth inning, two Cubs had been carried off the diamond. 
One of them had tried to shove a hip into Honus as this peaceful 
Pirate came tanklike into second base. The Cubs took two straight 
games. Coming in to dress for the third fracas, Wagner was amazed to 
see Frank Chance loitering outside the Pirate dressing room. 

"Tell Clarke I want to see him," Chance growled. 

"HI tell him," Honus said, "but you'd better not be here when he 
comes out." 

Honus delivered the message, then followed Clarke out to where 
Frank Chance was waiting. The two men began arguing excitedly, their 
noses a quarter of an inch apart. Wagner moved a respectful distance 
away to allow them to fight it out. A good 10 minutes went by. They 
seemed to become almost friendly. Then both suddenly broke into vio- 
lent arm waving and shaking of fists. Honus decided to break it up. 

"When I got there," Honus laughed, "they were going at it hot and 
heavy, a-cussin' out John McGraw! They had already agreed to stop 

playin' dirty against each other and concentrate on cripplin* McGraw 
and his Giants* That year the Giants tied us for second place, the Cubs 
beating us both out by half a game!" 

Fred Clarke was Honus Wagner's manager for all but two years of 
the great Pirate's major-league career. It was outfielder-manager Clarke 
who switched Wagner from the outfield to shortstop. He did not put 
Honus at that position because he felt that Wagner would perform 
better at short. He knew then, as the years proved, that Hans would 
become a star no matter where he played. 

Honus Wagner became the greatest shortstop of all time, but literally 
dozens of veteran players have said time and again that he was also the 
greatest player of his generation at any position he chose to flay. And 
he played them all lie roamed the outfield, and played every slot in 
the infield. As late as 1913, he took the mound as a pitcher against 
Brooklyn with the Pirates behind, 8-0. Pittsburgh won 9-8, and Honus 
drove in the winning runs! 

A grin creeps across Wagner's face when he recalls the day in 1902 
when he was sent in to play short Bones Ely, the regular shortstop, had 
reached a climax in his feud with Fred Clarke. Envious of Clarke's 
managerial position, Ely complained of a sore finger that day and 
refused to play* 

"All right, Honus/' Clarke said, "you play in his place.'* 

"Hell, I'm no shortstop," Wagner said. Tvc never played it in the 
major leagues." 

The Pittsburgh newspapermen, who had never seen Wagner in the 
infield, were inclined to agree with his opinion of himself. They 
thought Ely was as classy as they come and they cornered Clarke before 
game time and expressed their feelings. 

"You'd better get used to Wagner/' Clarke snapped. "He's staying in 
there if he makes 400 errors a day!" 

When Honus trotted out to take over the position, lie was met by 
a tremendous chorus of boos and catcalls from Ely's fans. They howled 
and yelled for him to continue on to the outfield, where they believed 
he belonged. Honus waved a large, friendly hand and parked his bent 
legs firmly between second and third, looking about as graceful as a 
beat-up snowplow, 

No one in the stands that day had ever seen such an unorthodox 
chunk of baseball machinery in action. He was grotesquely awkward, 
seemingly off-balance on every play, his bow legs chewing the ground, 
his huge arms swinging apelike from massive shoulders. But what mira- 
cles that top-heavy, clumsy-looking giant performed as he charged like 
a great bull, making impossible stops with glove and bare hand as he 
scooped up gravel and dirt along with the ball and threw runners out 
from every imaginable position! 

I 86] 

For over two decades, the beloved Dutchman was the most inelegant, 
ungraceful-appearing human ever bunched into a uniform. The only 
good thing you could say about the way he looked out there at short- 
stop was that nothing the more swan-like players hit ever got past him. 
Or, as McGraw said, "the way to get a ball past Honus is to hit it eight 
feet over his head!" His lifetime fielding average was .946. 

Honus was no "picture player" at the plate. From the rear, he looked 
as though he was sitting on an invisible burro. He would hunch over 
the rear of the platter like a primeval man about to club a wild beast 
to death. He never swung at a ball; he would lunge at it, bat and ball 
player traveling forward in one clumsy, superhuman effort Somehow, 
as if Fate willed it, wood connected with horsehide, the speed of the 
ball creating a high wind in the infield. His line drives were murderous 

"As a hitter, he had absolutely no weaknesses/' Jimmy Long said. 
"A pitcher would throw one low and inside and Hans would miss it a 
foot. The pitcher would throw another one in the same spot and Honus 
would knock the cover off the ball. I think he did this deliberately. 
You couldn't even walk him! They had to change the rules because 
Wagner refused to be walked." 

In a game against Cincy in 1906, a hurler decided to play it safe and 
pass Honus. The catcher stepped out from behind the plate to take the 
toss-outs. Hans wasn't having any of that. As the throw came down, he 
leaped a distance of some six feet across the plate and slammed a double 
into deep center field. 

A baseball legend credits Wagner with the longest home run in the 
history of the game, a liner off Red Ames that rocketed out of the 
Polo Grounds and clean over the elevated station beyond the center- 
field fence. According to one version of the story, nobody saw the ball 
drop it just traveled on a line out of sight. But that was many years 
ago ... 

From 1900 to 1911, the magnificent Honus led the league in hitting 
eight times, four of them in succession. He took his licks against such 
tolerable pitchers as Christy Mathewson, Rube Waddell, Grover Cleve- 
land Alexander, Kid Nichols, Mordecai Brown, and Amos Rusie, His 
BA against the great Matty was .324! 

For his first 17 years as a big leaguer, Hans never hit below .300. He 
led the league in doubles eight times. Briefly and sweetly, he holds 
almost all the National League batting records. He holds the record for 
die most singles, 2,431; the most doubles, 648; the most triples, 250. 

When you mention these lifetime marks to Hans, he smiles benignly 
and says, "I guess I hit pretty fair. Did I ever tell you about the time 
1 came up with three men on and nobody out and never got a chance 
to swing at the ball? That was against Chicago and those birds Tinker, 

[87 ] 

Evers, and Chance trapped and tagged out all three base runners while 
I was standin* there holdin' the bat" 

On the base paths they called Honus "the Ty Cobb of the National 
League/' But old-timers like pitcher Deacon Phillippe snort and holler 
when they hear this and claim that Wagner proved in the fire and 
brimstone of competition with Cobb that he was speedier and deadlier 
in stealing bases. Honus led the league in thefts five times, reaching his 
height in 1907 when he copped 61 bases to top both the National and 
American Leagues. 

"In that 1909 series, playing against Detroit, he made Cobb look like 
30 cents!" Phillippe said in his deep, booming voice, "And I never saw 
him spike a man, either. He could stop and start quicker than a 130- 
pounder, and he weighed close to 200 in those days." 

The wonderful Dutchman never equalled the base-swiping records 
of the Georgia Flash, but he was the only ballplayer in either league 
whom anyone dared to compare with the tremendous Ty. Honus' speed 
as he circled the bases was deceptive. He took long, ungainly bounds, 
resembling a truck on a bumpy road. Only those who had the misfor- 
tune to get in his way realized how fast he was moving. At Spring 
training, running the loo-yard dash against such fleet outfielders as 
Clarence Beaumont, Tommy Leach, and Fred Clarke, Honus was fre- 
quently timed in 10 seconds flat, wearing a baseball uniform and spiked 

"As an outfielder," Deacon Phillippe said, Tve never seen such a 
powerful arm! He played the outfield better than Cobb, Ruth, or 
Speaker. If he had stayed out there, he would have passed all of them 
as a hitter." 

This is the most argued question among the ancient heads in baseball 
and many maintain that the energy Honus burned up playing shortstop 
had a telling effect on his work at the plate. The Wagner worshippers 
firmly believe that he would have wound up with a better than ,400 
lifetime average if he had stayed in the garden. 

Tommy Leach is one who thinks so and Leach should know* When 
switched from third base to the outfield, Leach's comment on what a 
soft touch it was to roam the pastures is a baseball classic. "A guy who 
plays out here ought to pay to get in the park," Tommy drawled after 
his first game in the outfield. 

"You could drop Honus Wagner in any position and he'd put you up 
a star game/' the Deacon said, "There has never been a ballplayer so 
versatile. We used to say that Honus can hit anything, steal a base 
whenever he feels like it, and throw as far as he wants to! This kid 
Stan Musial comes the closest to being the sort of all-round ballplayer 
Honus Wagner was, but Musial can't run the bases like Hans could 
or play the infield/ 1 


During one season in the early i poo's, the old Pirates saw Homis 
play every position on the diamond except catcher. The cagey Clarke 
had marvelous judgment when it came to realizing Wagner's magnifi- 
cent abilities. He called on him to do the freak, the unbelievable, and 
his chunky charge never failed him. One day in Boston, with a man 
on third and one out, Clarke trotted in from left field and told Honus 
to switch positions with him. 

"If that geezer hits a fly ball," Clarke ordered, "throw to the plate and 
get the man from third." 

The Boston batter hit a liner to deep left and it seemed to those 
watching that day that the ball came back to the plate with more speed 
than it had traveled out to Hans. His throw caught the runner by a 
foot and it hit the catcher's mitt almost dead center over the dish! 

Chasing a fly ball, the bandy-legged Wagner looked like a fullback 
seeking a hole through tackle. As the ball began to drop, Honus, throw- 
ing out his baskedike hands, would begin to stretch and s-t-r-e-t-c-h and 
then the ball would be in his glove. Such an exhibition today might 
bring gales of laughter from the stands, until some wise one pointed out 
how much ground had been covered. 

At shortstop, there was only one type of hit that ever gave him trouble. 
A slow, weak, hobbling ball that any high school kid could field would, 
at times, mess him up. He would charge at it in high dudgeon, as though 
ashamed to be called upon to pick up such a fizzle. But he loved the 
zinging tough ones, the sizzling, white streaks that had to be knocked 
down with a bare hand or that called for an extra burst of superhuman 
speed, split-second timing, and plain guts. 

The question of Wagner's courage as a ballplayer never arose during 
his entire career. He was spiked and bounced around innumerable 
times, but nobody ever spoke or wrote about it because Honus never 
considered a husky bruise or a slashed leg important enough to mention. 
The peaceful brown eyes scarcely changed expression as pain shot 
through his body after a tangle with the burly base runners. 

Wagner's first meeting with Ty Cobb on the base paths has been 
written hundreds of times, but rarely from the Pirate player's viewpoint 
That day, as the story goes, Cobb got on first, cupped his hands, and 
shouted, "Hey, Kraut-head, I'm comin' down on the next pitch.'' This 
was followed by several more profane threats. 

"I guess Ty didn't hear what I said that day/' Honus grinned. "I 
didn't say it very loud. I just said that I'd be around." 

He was around. As the spikes of Cobb reached for his shins, the ball 
crashed into Ty's mouth to the tune of three stitches. 

"I always liked Ty" Honus said, almost wistfully. "He was a fighter 
and he knew it was a fellah's duty to protect himself out there. Lots of 
'em had trouble with Ty, but I never did." 

f 89] 

CoWs remarks about Honus Wagner generally ran like this : 'That 
goddam Dutchman is the only man in the game I can't scare/' 

When he walked off the diamond, Honus was the first man dressed, 
quickly removing himself from the vicinity of baseball bugs. He was 
quiet and shy in his early days as a star. Whenever he was asked to talk 
about himself, he suffered. His silent manner was never interpreted by 
fans, players, or newspapermen as aloofness. They respected his reticent 
nature. His marks of distinction were work-worn hands and the common 
beauty of a plain, rugged, honest and friendly face, 

He was fearless but without enemies, and every ballplayer called him 

Wagner's closest friends were Claude Ritchey, the Pirate second-base- 
man, and Deacon Phillippe. "And next to us," Phillippe said, "he was 
most at ease with the rookies* At the start of every season you would 
generally see Honus with some kid he had picked up and was helping 
to become a ballplayer." 

No one is so chock full of Wagner lore as the Deacon. This 77-year- 
old man was quite a piece of pitcher in his day. Before corning to the 
Pirates with Wagner in the Pittsburgh-Louisville merger of 1900, he 
pitched a no-hit game against the Giants (7-0, May 25, 1899) winning 
22 games that year for a club that did not play .500 ball. He also dis- 
tinguished himself by defeating the Red Sox three times in the first four 
games of the 1903 World Series and is the only hurler who ever pitched 
five complete games in one Series. He played on the Pirates with Honus 
for 13 years. 

"Hans would never cash in on the greatness of his name/' Phillippe 
said. "Many times one of us would arrange for him to meet a prominent 
businessman. He would show up, stand around for a fe\v minutes, and 
then say, Well, I got to meet a fellow down the street/ 1 le couldn't seem 
to cotton to those who could have done him some good. But he would 
take a bunch of working stiffs or poor kids, load them in his car and take 
them out on a hunting and fishing trip, foot all the bills, and never 
mention It/ 1 

The Flying Dutchman, the most valuable team player of his era, was 
also the most underpaid of the great stars. His first year at Pittsburgh, 
hitting .381, he collected $350 a month. At his height, he got $600 a 
month during the playing season. He was then boosted to a yearly salary 
of $5000 and finally wound up getting $10,000 his last few years. 

Once Larry Lajoie and Ty Cobb approached Honus to go on a vaude- 
ville tour with them, offering him $1000 a week. All he had to do was 
stand on the stage and swing a bat Honus turned it down, saying, "Aw, 
Ty, you know I'm no actor. 1 ' Cobb got furious and tried to talk him into 
it He couldn't understand anyone turning down all that money. 

Businessmen, advertising agencies, and other commercial people of- 

f 90] 

fered Honus fantastic sums of money which he refused to take. A 
tobacco company once asked John Gruber, a scorer at Pittsburgh, to 
obtain Wagner's picture to put in their cigarette packages. The letter 
Gruber got back from Honus is now in a frame. It reads, "Dear John, I 
don't want my picture in cigarettes, but I don't want you to lose $10, so 
enclosed is a check for that sum." 

According to Phillippe, Honus did not learn to become any sort of 
mixer until quite recently, within the last 10 years or so. Now, he will 
occasionally agree to speak at a banquet. He invariably steals the show 
with his quiet, devastating humor and wonderful stories about baseball, 
hunting, and fishing. Most of Wagner's stories about other people, some 
of them beauts, concern the Deacon. 

"Never forget the time Clarke told the Deac to dust off a batter/' 
Honus grinned. ""The Deacon got into a huff and he tells Fred that any 
time he had to throw at a guy's head to get him out, he was gonna quit 

Honus and the Deacon are still playing a pinochle game that started 
back in a church in Thomasville, Georgia, in 1900. Phillippe contacted 
a form of poison ivy that Spring and the ball club quarantined him in 
the church, the only available place. None of the other ballplayers would 
go near him, but Honus moved in and stayed with him. 

"He took care of me better'n a nurse," Phillippe said. "Three times a 
day he smeared me with some black ointment. He got the poison ivy on 
his hands doin' it, but he kept right on playin' ball with his hands all 
swole up and nobody but me knew he had it/' 

Out on the mound, with the Dutchman behind him at short, the 
Deacon said he felt like he had 10 men between second and third. With 
a man on base, Honus was the only shortstop in the league who would 
stay in position until the ball was hit and still have enough speed to get 
over and cover the bag. "He was as good a catcher with one hand as die 
other," Phillippe said, "He made so many outstanding stops you can't 
remember any single one*" 

The only time Wagner made errors on the field was when he would 
get mad and these occasions were extremely rare. The irascible Me- 
Graw and his arrogant Giants were sometimes able to get Honus' goat 
His lips would tighten, he would become more silent than ever and try 
too hard. Like all great players, he burned with an unquenchable desire 
to win at all costs. 

"McGraw could get my dander up once in a while," Honus admitted. 
"In 1900 I was in a hot race for the batting championship with Mike 
Donlin, Cy Seymour, and Elmer Flick. We played our last game against 
the Giants, and a hit that day would cinch it for me. I caught hold of 
one and sent it down the third-base line for a two-bagger and John began 
to scream Toul!' just about the time the bat hit the ball. He knew it 

[ 9i ] 

would be fair/' Honus grinned, "the old devil just wanted to worry me. 
Well, I sure liked him, anyway/' 

Honus remembers with glee how he once outsmarted McGraw. It was 
one of the few times anyone ever pulled a fast one on the doughty, 
managerial genius of the Giants. The Pirates were playing the New 
York team at the old Exposition Park* With a runner on second, Hans 
signaled the catcher for a throw to catch him off the bag. McGraw 
caught the signal and when the throw came to second the runner dashed 
for third and was safe. 

"I knew McGraw was on to my signal/' Hans related, "so before the 
next game I had a talk with the catcher. This time I flashed the same 
signal, the catcher faked the throw to second and tossed it to third 
catching the runner by three feet/* 

In his usual gracious manner, the angry McGraw grabbed Honus 
after the game and said, "For a Dutchman, you're a pretty smart son of a 
bitch, at that!" In later years, Honus told John J. McGraw that it was 
just about the nicest thing that had ever been said to him. McGraw 
smiled and said that was just how he had meant it. 

If Honus Wagner had played for the Giants, he undoubtedly would 
have been paid twice the sum he was getting at Pittsburgh. But BO man 
loved the Pirates and the people of the Smoky City as much as Wagner 
did. When the ball club went into the red, he took voluntary pay cuts. 
He lived his whole life within walking distance o the ball park. 

When Ban Johnson raided the National League to form the American 
League, Wagner was offered $21,000 a year to make the switch. Hans 
didn't hesitate. He went to Barney Dreyfuss at the start of the season 
and signed his name to a Pirate contract and the sura he was to get had 
not yet been filled in! 

To Honus, money and ball playing were poles apart. You could not 
put a price on what it meant to him, in the way of pride, to be a Pirate, 
There was a reason, one that goes back to his childhood, a simple reason 
for a wonderfully simple, deeply sentimental man. 

"When I was a kid in Carnegie/' he said, "I used to walk to Pitts- 
burgh to see the Pirates play. It was a long walk, over the hills, seven 
miles each way. I was only 10 years old then and it used to seem that I'd 
never get to that ball park in time/' 

Dusk would have merged into night before the kid, Hans, would get 
back to his home in Carnegie. Perhaps, that day, the sparkling play of 
Cap Anson and his White Stockings had whipped the Pirates, Hans 
would be dreaming, as he walked along, how it would be to wear a 
Pirate uniform and play against Cap, 

Later, he was to find out. Later, he was to play against the renowned 
Cap Anson, the first baseball star in the game* And Cap was to tell him, 
"Kid, you're a better hitter now than I ever was/' He would never forget 


those words, telling them to a reporter in 1948, more than half a century 

Baseball seems almost like a new game when you talk to Honus 
Wagner, when you see him in the dressing room swapping yarns with a 
Pirate rookie of 20 summers, when you realize that he actually talked 
with and played against Anson, who practically invented the game. 

John Peter Wagner was born in Mansfield (now Carnegie), Pennsyl- 
vania, on February 24, 1874. He was the son of Catherine and Peter 
Wagner. His father was an immigrant from Bavaria, fleeing from the 
harshness of the Prussian military system. 

He fled, but the training stuck. Hans remembers how his father 
would drill the neighborhood kids in the streets of Mansfield. Peter 
Wagner left the harsh life for one almost as harsh, toiling in the coal 
mines 18 hours a day to support his family of nine children. 

"I remember only six of us kids/' Honus said. 'The other three died 
before I was born or while I was very young." 

The things Hans remembers about his father as a young man are not 
many but they are vivid. He remembers that he could run very fast. He 
remembers that he was frequently despondent, suffering moods of deep 
despair. He remembers his father and darkness, descending into a coal 
mine with him to begin work. Fie remembers the quiet, reassuring voice 
of his father as they sunk deeper into the bowels of the earth. 

"It was Spring when I went to the mines to work and I was r2 years 
old," Honus said. "They gave me what they called a *boy's car/ My 
father didn't want me to work but we needed the money. I loaded two 
tons of coal a day at 79 cents a ton, boy's pay." 

At 14, Honus was taking a man's turn at the cars. He worked in the 
mines off and on for five years. During most of the Winter, he never 
saw daylight. The Wagner family father, Honus, and his brothers- 
would go to the mines before dawn broke. When they came out it was 
dark. Hans was small then, and he could dig coal in places men could 
not go. 

"It didn't make me stronger to work in the mines," he said. "I think it 
hurt me a lot. The dampness of the mines never left my legs. Some years 
I felt a lot of pain playing on them. But I ate plenty," he smiled. "I had 
to eat to stay alive." 

The air was so foul in the mine that water would spoil, so the miners 
drank tea. And young Hans learned to like rats, to depend on them for 
his life. The rats could always sense a cave-in and when they ran for 
their lives, the miners ran with them. The sound of the rats trying to 
gnaw through to the food in the tin lunch pails was a reassuring sound 
to the boy, Hans. 

Now, at important dinners and banquets, Honus never tells these 
things to assembled guests in their sparkling shirt fronts. He tells them 

[93 ] 

about a certain mule that worked the mines with them. "Smartest durn 
mule I ever have known/' he says. "During lunch hour he would ride 
up on the lift alone and go to grazing. Never had to go after him. Soon 
as a half hour was up, he'd come back to the lift and ride down again. 
Why, that mule was so smart that he never showed up for work on 
Sundays and holidays!" 

Honus liked the Spring of the year best, for his older brothers would 
bring a ball and glove to the mine. At lunch time, they would often go 
up above ground and play catch. He would play with them until time 
to return to work. His brothers, Al, Luke, and Charlie, were all ball- 
players. Ever since he can remember, Honus wanted to be a ballplayer 

The Wagner boys played their baseball on Sunday in a vacant lot on 
Main Street where the bank now stands. It was his brother, AI, who 
gave Honus the best piece of baseball advice in his entire career. Hans 
had confided to him how much he wanted to be a ballplayer and Al 
said, "You practice all the positions, Johnny. That way you'll always be 

Honus did just that. In pick-up games with the sons of miners and 
steel workers, he would stubbornly insist on playing at least three or 
four different positions during the course of a game. **By the time I was 
14," he said, I had learned them all The way I used to throw at short 
for the Pirates, that way of throwin* without talcin* a step after catching 
a ball hit far to my right, I learned when I was playing as a kid in 

When Honus was 16 years old, one of the Wagners had gone up in 
the world. Brother Charlie saved enough money to buy a small barber- 
shop. Charlie hoisted his Idd brother out of the mines and put him to 
work learning the cleaner and more lucrative trade of barbering. The 
sights in the upper world, the shouting kids on their way to the lots to 
play ball, made life even more miserable for Hans. One Saturday after- 
noon, the gang shouted at Hans as they went by the barbershop* He 
dropped the shears and fished his glove out from under the chair. 

'Where you goin'?" 

*Tm gonna play ball, Charlie," 

"No, you ain't!" 

But Honus who could run like his father was out of the shop before 
Charlie could catch him. The conflict between Honus and Charlie be- 
came sharper, and the hours Hans spent at barbering grew shorter. He 
drifted to other jobs. He spent more time on ball fields, then lived 
on little or nothing playing semi-pro ball in nearby Ohio. Al, who had 
turned pro, encouraged him. Then Luke became a ballplayer* 

Honus was working in the Superior steel milk when he got his first 
offer to play professional baseball He was just 2.0 years old* Al, playing 

f 94 ] 

for the crack Steubenville team in the Tri-State League, had raved 
about Honus to his manager, George Moreland. Moreland needed an 
outfielder, and he wired Hans an offer of $35 per month. 

Wild with excitement, Hans rushed to the railroad station and showed 
the telegram to a friend named Joe Chambers, a railroad worker. To- 
gether, over a penny postcard, they framed a reply. It read. "All right* 
When do you want me? John Peter Wagner/' 

A few days later a contract arrived, along with another wire telling 
Honus to come immediately. Hans signed the contract, with Joe Cham- 
bers affixing his signature as witness. If you ever pass through Carnegie, 
you'll see that contract in a store window there. Hans sent another 
penny postcard. "On my way. John Peter Wagner." He was broke, so 
Chambers put him aboard a coal train that would pass through Steu- 

'When I got there, I was covered with coal dust and cinders," Honus 
chuckled. "I was ashamed to show up before Moreland that way, so I 
went down to the river and washed my clothes and took a bath. When 
my things had dried, I went to the ball park and reported." 

This was the clean, humble beginning of the longest career in base- 

Out of his 35 bucks a month, Hans had to buy his baseball uniform, 
his spiked shoes, and his glove. The first time Moreland saw the younger 
Wagner throw a ball he said, "Hell, son, you're no outfielder, you're a 

As a moundsman, Wagner had blinding speed but nothing else. The 
batters who could connect with his fast one gave it a terrific ride. More- 
land kept moving him around, playing him in both the outfield and the 
infield. It didn't matter where he put him, and he didn't pay too much 
attention to his fielding. What interested Moreland was the way Honus 
could hit. He had a mere .402 average at the plate that year. 

The manager of the Warren team heard about Hans and offered him 
$75 a month. It was a huge leap in salary for those days and Honus 
grabbed it. When he arrived, the manager asked him what position he 

"What do you need?" Honus asked, politely. 

**A shortstop," the manager said. 

"That's what I play," the youngster said* 

That hawk-eyed, unerring judge of ballplayers, Ed Barrow, saw 
Honus play one game and immediately began to dicker for Honus. Man- 
ager Moreland, who still held Wagner's contract, thought that Barrow 
was after AL He wired to Barrow on the Paterson, New Jersey, club 
that Al Wagner was not for sale. "How about the other one?" Barrow 
wired back;. Moreland agreed to let Honus go for some $300 on the 

[95 ] 

Through 1896 and part of 1897, Wagner roamed through almost all 
the positions on the Paterson ball club. He started at first base. When 
the third-baseman got hurt, he took over the position and then was 
switched to the outfield. Barrow, anxious to see him get ahead, urged 
Louisville of the then i2-club National League to take Honus. 'Take 
him for anything* Take him as a gift." 

They took him, dubiously, for $800. What a gift! 

It was at Louisville that he met and played for manager Fred Clarke, 
the man he was to play under for two decades. Clarke put him in the 
outfield, because he happened to need an outfielder, AFs words were 
prophetic Learn to flay all tJie ^positions, Johnny, and you'll always "be 

At Louisville, Clarke soon realized that Honus could be used any- 
where he was needed. He shuttled him between first, third, and left, 
center, and right field. In 61 games during his first season in the major 
leagues, Wagner hit .344. He played his first big-league game on July 
19, 1897, and it was one of the busiest of his career. Louisville's oppo- 
nents for that day were the Baltimore Orioles, sparked by Muggsy 

"My first time up," Honus, of the remarkable memory, said, "I got a 
single. The next time I hit a good one. I might have made a triple but 
Jack Doyle gave me the hip at first, OF Hughie Jennings chased me 
wide around second, and McGraw blocked me off at third and knocked 
the wind outa me putting the ball in my belly," 

When Hans came into the bench, Clarke was in a fury. 

"Lissen," he screamed, "those are Orioles! Let 'em play with you like 
that and you go back to the minors!" 

Late in the game, the young Flying Dutchman tied into another one 
and sent it deep and skimming into center. He dumped Doyle on his 
behind at first, left Jennings sprawled in the dirt on second, and tramped 
all over McGraw at third. Clarke strolled out to the third-base coaching 

"I guess you plan to stay with us awhile," he grinned. Then he turned 
to McGraw. "Nice day, ain't it, Muggsy?" 

While playing for Louisville in the outfield, Wagner frequently 
nipped runners going from first to third on a long hit The first time he 
did it, he was called up before the board of directors of the Colonels 
ball club. 

'Why did you throw to third?" they demanded. "You're supposed to 
play it safe and throw home." 

"I got the man out," Honus said, quietly, "and it broke up the rally," 

"You were lucky. It's not good baseball." 

When Wagner did it twice the next day, throwing the runner out at 
third each time, the boys in the front office clammed up. They had seen 


In action the difference between "good baseball" and genius on the 
wing. And it was while he was playing with Louisville that rival out- 
fielders began showing respect for Wagner's terrific clouting, playing 
him with their backs pressed right against the fence. 

When young Honus Wagner learned that he, Fred Clarke, and 12 
other players were to be shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates it was, un- 
questionably, the happiest day in his life. All week, before it was finally 
settled, Hans had been fretting about the rumor that the "gang" would 
be traded to Chicago. When Clarice walked in and told him that he was 
a Pirate, Wagner's eyes got cloudy and he almost broke his jaw smiling. 

"Fred, I aim to stay a Pirate all my life," he said. "It's where I belong." 

With the familiar feel and smell of the Pittsburgh smog around him, 
within hiking distance of home, with enthusiasm and simple joy in his 
heart, Honus played like a fiend during his first eight years on the 
Buccaneer ball club. Beginning in 1901, the Pirates copped three 
straight pennants and the batting average of their beloved Dutchman 
read like this: .381, .352, .329, .355, .349, .363, .339, .350. 

Ranking with the Yankees Murderers Row, the Pirates of 1902 had 
three outfielders all hitting over .300 with Honus setting the pace. 
Honus loves to roll the names of those 1902 players over his tongue and 
tell about them. There were Beaumont, Sebring, Clarke, outfielders; 
Claude Ritchey, Kitty Bransfield, Tommy Leach, Wagner (infield and 
outfield) and Chief Zimmer and Jack O'Connor behind the plate. And 
on the mound, Tannehill, Doheny, Phillippe, Leever and Chesbro. 

'That was the year we finished 27 games ahead of the league," Wag- 
ner beamed. "That was some ball club. Long about the middle of Au- 
gust, nothin' could slow us down. We couldVe won the pennant with 
each man holdin* a couple of bags of peanuts in his hand and his glove 
in his hip pocket." 

It might have been done at that. As both Deacon Phillippe and Wag- 
ner said, each one managed his own position and didn't want to be 
bothered. In the middle of the season, Clarke took sick and went off and 
left Wagner in charge. Honus would amble into the dressing room, look 
over the pitching staff, and say, "Who wants to throw 'em today?" If 
anyone would ask Honus a question about strategy or tactics, Hans 
would shrug and say,- "Let's just beat *em." 

It was always inconceivable to Honus, whose baseball instinct was so 
natural, that anyone had to be told how to play baseball. Nobody had 
ever told him. You caught the ball and threw it where it was supposed 
to go. You thought of the right thing to do instinctively. 

"Honus couldn't tell another ballplayer how to play," Deacon Phil- 
lippe said. "And in my day," he added proudly, "a fellah wasn't consid- 
ered a ballplayer unless he could make his own decisions. We needed 
Clarke as an outfielder and didn't give two hoots for a manager." 


Unlike most fiercely competitive athletes, Honus never fought with 
the umpires. He has an inherent sense of fair play. As he put it, "In all 
my years of play, I never saw an ump deliberately make an unfair deci- 
sion. They really called them as they saw 'em." If Wagner felt that an 
umpire had erred on calling a third strike, he would turn away from the 
plate without a word. The next time up, he would say, quietly, "Bill, 
that last one you called looked a little outside to me." The umpires 
would bend over backward to make it up to him. 

Those who watched the Flying Dutchman for so many years, watched 
breathlessly as he dived about the diamond making those impossible 
saves and slid into bases at breakneck speed, could not understand how 
he kept from getting seriously hurt Wagner's answer is simple and hu- 
morous. "1 kept pretty wide awake out there and I liked to play too 
much to get hurt." 

Honus was only seriously injured once and it was one of the most 
freakish happenings in baseball. He had run behind second base to grab 
a high bounder and thrown the man out at first The play was over and 
he strolled in toward the pitcher. His foot hit the bag and he tripped 
and broke his ankle! 

With the exception of part-time duty at first base, third, and the out- 
field, Wagner played shortstop for the Pirates for 15 years. It got so he 
hated to leave the position, even when Clarke needed his talent else- 
where, because he loved playing that hot spot so much* It was there he 
got the most action and covered the most ground. 

From the stands, old Peter Wagner spent many long, Summer after- 
noons watching Honus break up ball games. When it had become too 
hard on him in the mines, Hans had got his father a job as a ticket-taker 
at the ball park. Everything was much brighter for the old man in his 
waning years. Three of his sons had become big-league ballplayers, and 
Charlie's barbershop was almost a shrine to the proud, working people 
of Carnegie. 

Honus was at his best during the years 1900 to 1909. In '09 he drove 
in the Pirates' winning run to beat the Giants and cinch the National 
League pennant In the World Series that year, he hit the pinnacle of 
his brilliant career, batting .333, making 13 putouts at shortstop, and 
stealing six bases to tie the Series record in that department. He was 34 
years old then and, almost single-handed, he tamed the terrible Ty and 
the entire Detroit team. 

"Things were changing fast by that time/' Honus said, "Women were 
beginning to come to the ball parks. We hadda stop cussin 1 . I remember 
Clarke's wife bawlin' the devil outa him in '09 for the language he was 
using as he'd come in from the outfield to squawk about some decision/' 

In the year 1909, the Pirates moved from the old Exposition Park 
down near the river to beautiful Forbes Field in green, rolling country, 

f 98 I 

Everything was new and bright and shiny except OF Honus, whose legs 
were beginning to bother him. The years in the mines, the years playing 
on the wet, soggy ball ground at Exposition, seemed finally to have 
caught up with the Flying Dutchman. At the end of the 1909 season, he 
said he was through. 

The Bonus Wagner All-Star Basketball team had kept him busy and 
in shape during the off season, and he planned to devote his time to that. 
He was a star of that team, playing basketball the way he played base- 
ball, turning in a magnificent performance at every position. His team 
had won the Western Pennsylvania and Ohio championship that year, 
winning one of the play-off games by a 54 score! "Yep," Honus 
laughed, "basketball has changed some, too/* 

Just before the start of Spring training in 1910, owner Barney Drey- 
fuss and manager Clarke got together with Honus for a friendly chat. 
They began to talk over baseball, past teams, great plays, old times. 
Then Barney said the one thing that would bring the old warhorse 
back, the plea that could not be refused. 

"We need you, Honus." 

"Well," Wagner said, lifting a handkerchief to his big beak, "I guess 
if you fellows need me Fd better hang around for awhile." 

"Fine!" Barney Dreyfuss said. "Name any price you want, Honus." 

"Oh, just fill in the usual amount," Wagner said, heading for the 

He stayed around for eight more seasons. In 1910, being needed, he 
hit .320 and tied for the most hits in the league. Being needed even 
more in 1911, Honus won the National League batting championship 
again, clouting .334. He complained of rheumatism that year. He 
couldn't seem to pull off that stunt of leading the league in doubles and 
triples. He was still up to his old tricks, however, still rounding first like 
a fire truck and causing anxious outfielders to bobble the ball But now 
he had to come in sliding on 36-year-old legs instead of breezing in 
serene and upright. 

In 1913, while playing a game in Brooklyn, the news reached Honus 
that his father had died. He played out the game, dressed slowly and 
quietly and, for once, was the last man to leave the ball park. The 
streets of Brooklyn were like another country that afternoon and he 
seemed like an alien, belonging to a faraway time, to dark mornings and 
the voice of his father, to toil and the mines. 

Fall came, smoke hung heavy over the suburbs of Pittsburgh. In be- 
tween tuning up for basketball, Hans would go hunting in die woods 
around Carnegie with Deacon Phillippe. They would wander 25 or 30 
miles a day over hilly land and Honus would complain about not having 
the pep he had in younger days, feeling a little tuckered out now at the 
end of the day. "Guess 111 have to knock it off next year," he said to the 

I 99] 

Deacon after the 1913 season when his batting average for that year had 
slipped to a measly .300 for the first time in his life. 

But he was back for full seasons In 1914, '15, and *i6. Fred Clarke, 
the last of the old gang, had left in 1915 and at the start of the 1916 
season Hans was switched to first base. He got lonely for action as a 
first-sacker and so they sent him back to shortstop, lie hit .287 that year 
and had a fielding average of .954. 

Early in the 1917 season, Barney Dreyfuss knew what was coming. 
He tried to make it easier for Bonus by appointing him manager. He 
replaced Jimmy Callahan on July i and quit on July 4th in favor of 
Hugo Bezdek. He had no desire or talent for managing and was glad 
when he could go back to short and play his own game his own way. 

"I never wanted the responsibility of managing/' he said. "I liked to 
give 'em the best I had and be through for the day/* 

His face was a little sad when he said it, as though he had let some- 
one down by not being able to perform as wonderfully as a manager as 
he had as a ballplayer. Then his face brightened suddenly and he leaned 
back and relaxed. 

"Reminds me of a story," he said. "Sort of shows how tough being a 
manager is. 1 remember one day we dropped a close one to the Cards. 
It was during the time Bill McKechnie was manager and he was a very 
nervous fellow. After the game, Sam Waters took him to the opera to 
get his mind off of what had happened that afternoon. In the middle of 
the second act, Bill sits up straight in liis seat and yells, 'Dammit, why 
didn't that dumb cuss slide?' They run 'em both outa the opera house!" 

On August 22, 1917, the Pirates were playing Brooklyn. It was get- 
ting very dark on the field and the game was tied in the 2ist inning 
when a Brooklyn batter rapped a mean grounder deep between second 
and third for what seemed like a sure bingo and die end of the game. 
The fans peering through the dusk saw an awkward, bow-legged, squat 
giant hurtle meteorlike toward the ball, scoop it up in a bare paw, and 
flip it to first in time to catch the runner. 

A xoar went up. Bonus Wagner was still in the game* He was then 
43 years old and had been playing as a regular all yean They had 
started him off at first, then sent him to third. But when the chips were 
down in a game like this, he was at short still the best shortstop in the 
National League. 

The game dragged on until the 24th inning and the Brooks finally 
won, 6-5, But ballplayers and fans and sportswriters went home that 
night talking about the beautiful way OF Honus had grabbed that im- 
possible sizzler in his right hand, and how they guessed the Dutchman 
would still be flying around the diamond when they were all in their 

It was then less than a month from the time Bonus Wagner^ short- 

[ too ] 

stop, was to play his last major-league game. He played it on September 
17, 1917. Then he went home to rest, but he carried his spiked shoes 
with him, just in case. 

The house atop the hill in Carnegie was now cluttered with trophies. 
There was even a baseball bat given to him by Admiral Peary, made 
from the wood in the deck of the Admiral's flagship. But trophies, as 
nice as they are, are cold objects that could never replace for him a 
chaw of tobacco, a yarn in the clubhouse, the feeling in the pit of the 
stomach as you walk to the plate. 

Honus turned down all the lucrative business propositions offered to 
him and took a job as a basketball and baseball coach at Carnegie Tech. 
It didn't last long. He wasn't built to tell others how to be great. That 
summer he organized a baseball team of his own- the Honus Wagner 
All-Stars, same name and same kind of scrappy outfit as the All-Star 
Basketball team he still played with and loved. 

The shortstop for the All-Stars was a 44-year-old big-leaguer. He 
played with that team every Summer, all Summer, for another 10 years! 
He actually quit playing organized baseball at the age of 53! Money 
during this time was always a problem. It was as though he was a kid 
out of the coal mines again, playing for $35 a month. 

Now and then someone in Pittsburgh would get teary-eyed talking 
about what a great ballplayer he had been, and they would toss him an. 
honorary banquet with speeches and a check. He was a married man 
with kids now and he did need the dough. It took money to keep the 
All-Stars going. 

Honus had married on December 30, 1916, the year before he bowed 
out of big-league competition. He married a Pittsburgh girl, Bessie B. 
Smith. He was 42 years old when he decided to take the leap. His 
explanation of why he had not married sooner was, "Would have, but I 
was too busy playing ball/' 

The Deacon says this is only partly true, that Honus was too shy and 
unassuming to feel confident around the opposite sex until he passed 
40. He has two fine daughters now, both of whom adore him. The 
younger one, Virginia, is writing a book about her father called "My 

But Hans himself is still reticent when it comes to talking about any- 
thing except baseball. 

'Tell you about my wife?" he said, "Well, now, her father was a 
mighty fine pitcher. As a kid, I used to watch him play. Had one of the 
sweetest curve balls I ever saw in my life. Lemnie see, I met her with 
her father one day on a street car comin' home from a ball game. Say, 
that old boy could throw a burner in there, too. Had a very fast balL 
His name was John Corbett Smith. Should have gone up to the big 

f 401 ] 

For Honus Wagner everything was and is and always will be colored 
by baseball and baseball players. 

When times got tough, he served for a while as a sergeant-at-amis in 
the Pennsylvania State Legislature. But he couldn't stand it* He said it 
was a lazy man's job. He said he would rather go back to the mines. 

The first business venture of his life was a sporting goods store. He 
went into partnership with Pie Traynor, but the depression licked both 
the old ballplayers and the business went down the drain. Honus was 
almost glad to get rid of it. 

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt took over in the White House and 
people across the nation first heard about the New Deal. That year, 
Honus Wagner got a New Deal, too. He was taken back to the bosom 
of his old ball club as a coach. He was just turning 60 and the new job 
with the Pirates made him feel spryer than ever. At Spring training, he 
chased about like a rookie. 

He has been a coach for the Pirates ever since. Until a couple of years 
ago, he danced around on his old legs during batting practice before the 
games, retrieving balls. "It was a miracle how he kept from getting hit/' 
Jim Long said. 'Then, one day, it happened. A foul struck him on the 
back and since then he's had to keep off the diamond when practice gets 
too heavy. He doesn't like that" 

You will find in Pittsburgh some cold, hard heads that will tell you 
that Honus Wagner's value as a coach for the Pirates is nil, that he is 
kept on merely out of sentiment. But the men who play on the ball club 
don't feel that way. "It wouldn't be a Pirate dressing room without him," 
Frankie Gustine said. 

Now that Gustine has been traded to the Cubs, he will miss Ol' 
Honus more than any other player on the Pirate roster. Frankie has 
been seeing him every day of the baseball season for eight years. 

"He is the most modest of all the great ballplayers of the past," Gus- 
tine said. "I never saw him play I wasn't even alive when he was play- 
ingbut, just being around him, you get the feel of how great he must 
have been. They ought to erect a monument to that guy." 

Monuments are for the dead. Honus Wagner is still very much alive. 
In the Pirate dugout, a mouth full of tobacco, the keen, brown eyes 
studying the field, he is a living monument, most inspiring to behold. 

The smart rookies still come to him for advice. He seldom gives it to 
them in words. Instead, he shows them. He spits into a glove and 
crouches over and swings a long, heavy right arm, showing them how to 
throw from deep short without taking a step. "There ain't much to being 
a ballplayer," hell say, "if you're a ballplayer." 

The things he has told Frankie Gustine over the years are few and 
simple. Such advice as, "Keep in good shape all year around* That 
playin' basketball in the off season did me a whale of a lot of good/ 1 

f 402 ] 

(Frankie got himself a basketball team.) "It's gettin' back into shape for 
the baseball season that takes it outa most fellahs." 

"Stay up there and hit/' hell add. "You can't swing at that ball often 
enough. Make 'em drive you away from the plate during practice. That's 
what I did. An' take your own part out there. Be fulla spunk." 

Young ballplayers like him because he does not brag about the old 
days, or tell them how much greater the oldtime stars were than modern 
athletes. He knows the game has become more scientific and he says so* 
He does not live in the past, nor boast that if he could have hit against 
the "live" ball he would have had a homer every time he hit a double. 
He tells you how the game differs, how much more fight there was in 
the old days, by spinning a yarn. 

"When I was with Louisville/' he'll say, "we used to have some tough 
scraps with the Cleveland Spiders. They was beatin' us one afternoon 
and ol' Clarke was razzin' the umpire and yelling that the game ought 
to be called on account of darkness. He stormed and pranced around 
Ump Weedon so much that Weedon finally called the game. Then 
there was a regular riot and the Spiders began swingin' their fists and 
they took the whole lot of 'em off to the police station." 

He pauses to shake with laughter. "The next day they come up for a 
hearin'. Clarke is sittin' on a corner of the courtroom a-laughin' up his 
sleeve at the Cleveland team a-standin* in front of the Judge. Then Pat 
Tebeau begins makin' a fiery speech to the judge and he suddenly turns 
around and points at Clarke and says, 'Clarke is the man who started all 
this by steppin' on umpire Weedon's toes. He's the one that ought to be 
arrested/ Well, sir, ol' Clarke didn't wait to hear no more, he just lit 
outa that room on the dead run!" 

You can't write a story about Honus Wagner without asking him to 
pick an all-time, all-star team. The one he picked is the only all-star 
team since 1900 that hasn't got Wagner at shortstop. For Honus, the 
greatest outfielders he has ever seen are Clarence Beaumont in center 
field, Fred Clarke in left field, and Wee Willie Keeler in right. In the 
infield, Bill Terry at first base, Rogers Hornsby at second. 

"Shortstop?" he grinned. "That's a tough one for me. I guess it's a 
tossup between Joe Tinker and Hughie Jennings. At third, Pie Traynor 
and behind the plate either Roger Bresnahan or Johnny Kling. For 
pitchers, well Christy Mathewson was the best and then ol' Grover 
Alexander and Rube Waddell." 

When the baseball season starts, Honus seems to become ageless. The 
only thing that tires him out is the endless questions put to him by the 
throngs of admirers who cluster around him and want to know the 
"inside" of how it was in the old days. When the talk begins to tire his 
tongue, Honus has a graceful way of removing his ungraceful, bow- 
legged form. 

f 103 J 

"Now Til ask you folks a question," he grins. "The bases are full and 
there are no outs and the batter hits a homer over the left-field wall, but 
not a man scores/' 

While the crowd is trying to figure that one out, Honus ambles out of 
sight. The teaser kept Bing Crosby awake most of one night and he 
cornered Honus the next day and demanded the answer. 

"A fellah like you with four sons ought to be able to figure that one 
out/' Honus said, straight-faced. "It was a girl's team, Bing." 

Last year at Spring training in Gilmore Stadium, Hollywood, the pho- 
tographers followed Honus from morning until night He posed, un- 
complainingly, for countless pictures. After three weeks of it, he sidled 
up to manager Billy Meyer one day and said, "Bill, those photographers 
have wore me out and I'd like to go home for a rest" 

He went home to his house in Carnegie, to the town where he has 
always lived. The people there were surprised to see their ballplayer at 
home during the height of Spring training. It hadn't happened in 55 
years and it worried them. Seeing Honus out of uniform at that time 
of year almost shook their faith in the indestructibility of the Flying 

But when the ump called "Play ball!" on the opening day at Forbes 
Field, the Dutchman was there in full baseball regalia, sitting happily in 
the Pirate dugout, his eyes on the pitcher. He'll be in the same spot this 
year and the next and, in the way that the Babe has never left Yankee 
Stadium, Honus Wagner will be wherever the Pirates are playing, 

f 104 J 



Up Jfaek Sher 

\HIS is the story of the greatest ballplayer of all time. 

He made his first appearance in a major-league ball park on 
August 30, 1905, at Bennett Field in the city of Detroit. His 
name was not even on the score card. He arrived at the plate unknown, 
a pinch-hitter, an angry-faced, jut-jawed, mean-eyed 1 8-year-old kid who 
held his bat like a club, left hand high, right hand low. Facing him was 
Jack Chesbro, New York's great spitballer, winner of 41 games the pre- 
vious season. The rookie batter twisted his mouth scornfully, taunted 
Chesbro with a few derisive words, then whacked out a double, driving 
in two runs. 

That hit began the career of baseball's most fabulous performer, the 
player of the century, the "Georgia Peach," the tyrant of the Tigers, 
Tyrus Raymond Cobb. Twenty-three years later, when Ty Cobb finally 
hung up his spikes, he had played in more ball games, scored more runs, 
made more hits, stolen more bases, held more records than any other 
man in baseball history. He was, in truth, a colossus of the diamond. 

The world has changed drastically since that day in 1905 when Ty 
first came to bat. Teddy Roosevelt was President then, the Russo-Jap- 
anese war had just ended, the Panama Canal was a dream of stubborn 
men clearing malaria-infested swamps, the national debt stood at $i,- 
132,357,095, and the "horseless carriage" was being banned from Detroit 
streets. Then everything changed but Ty Cobb was still playing base- 
ball when the sight of an airplane over a ball park was a common thing. 
Everything has changed, but the Georgia Peach still holds more baseball 
records than any man who ever played the game. Well into his sixties, 
he has yet to see any of them broken. 

Old-timer Ray Schalk, one of the great catchers for the Chicago 
White Sox, said, "I don't blame any young ballplayer who looks at the 
records Cobb set and refuses to believe them. If I hadn't played against 
that devil, I wouldn't believe them myself. Most of the time it was hard 
to believe the things you actually saw him do/ 1 

Playing in 3,033 games, Cobb made 4,191 hits, scored 2,244 
His closest competitor in hits, Tris Speaker, was 676 behind him. Babe 
Ruth scored 70 less runs than Cobb. Ty's lifetime batting average o 
.367 was the highest ever compiled by any batter. Three times in his 
career he finished the season with an average better than .400. He won 
the American League batting crown 12 times. One year he even finished 
first in home runs. His average was .323 in 1928, his last year of base- 
ballwhen he was almost 42 years old! He stole a grand total of 892 
bases and holds the modem record for one season, 96 in 1915. Cobb had 
been playing major-league ball 10 years when he racked up the 96 thefts, 
more than most entire ball clubs now steal in a season. 

It is understandable that when Baseball's Hall of Fame was completed 
in Cooperstown in 1939, the first memento to be hung in the museum 
was a pair of shoes with gleaming spikes. "That takes care of Ty Cobb/* 
the judges said. "Now let's see who else belongs in the Hall/' 

In 1942, a poll was taken among big-league managers, ex-managers, 
and the stars of the century to choose who was the greatest ballplayer of 
all time. Of the 102 votes cast, Ty Cobb got 60, with the remaining 42 
divided among 14 players. The bow-legged, immortal Hans Wagner 
finished second with 17, Babe Ruth won 11 votes, and Rogers Hornsby 
was the only other player to get more than one vote. 

These figures move into the realm of the unbelievable when you con- 
sider that Ty Cobb was the most hated and the most feared player of his, 
or any, era. He was a fiery, unpredictable, bull-headed, daring, cruel, 
and brilliant performer. He was a lone wolf, fierce, combative, despised 
by many of his own teammates, always a center of storm and strife, one 
of God's angry men. But a ballplayer, a fantastic ballplayer. And it's a 
tribute to the f airmindedness of the men who play our national sport that 
those who cast their votes for Ty Cobb did not do so because of any love 
for the old terror, but simply because they knew he really was the great- 
est of them all. 

The comments of baseball's most famous men, when speaking of 
Cobb, have always been overwhelming. 

Connie Mack said: "He surpassed all the players I can remember." 
Billy Southworth: "Cobb's base-running and all-around ability more 
than matched Ruth's slugging." Eddie Collins: "Why was Cobb the 
greatest? Obvious." George Sisler, one of Ty's later-day rivals: "If you 
played during the years he was burning up the league, you could never 
forget the Georgian. I know I never will." 

It could go on and on. Cliff Cravath, a former National League home- 
mn hitter, smiled and said: "He'd chase half the present-day ballplayers 
out of the park with his spikes. He could dish it out and he could take 
it." Hughie Jennings, the Detroit manager who suffered through years 
of trouble with the incorrigible Cobb, once said, "Ty had his faults, but 

he was the most fearless man I have ever known. When he was in his 
prime, he had half the American League scared stiff." 

And Ty Cobb knew it. It was part of his plan of battle. A ball game 
wasn't an athletic contest to Cobb. It was a knock 'em down, crush 'em, 
relentless fight. He went into every game the way Dempsey climbed into 
a ring, full of fury and blood-lust, filled with a deep and burning desire 
to win at all costs. He had no mercy on rival players or on himself. Dur- 
ing his flaming career, Cobb's legs were covered with scars, cuts, and 
bruises from his toes to his hips. 

"I saw Cobb in one series where each leg was a mass of raw flesh/' 
Grantland Rice, his long-time friend, said. "He had a temperature of 
103. The doctor had ordered him to bed for a three-day rest. That after- 
noon he got three hits and stole three bases, sliding into second and 
third on sore, battered flesh." 

From the time the Georgia Peach broke in as a rookie to his final day 
in Yankee Stadium, he played every ball game as though it were a mat- 
ter of life or death. The chip on his shoulder was as large as a bat. He 
fought players, umpires, even fans, with his fists and with his spikes. 
He caused the only player strike in the history of the game. He was 
attacked in city streets. His life was threatened. But nothing slowed him 
up* If a pitcher threw a bean-ball at Cobb, as many of them did, they 
usually wound up in the showers, nursing their wounds. Ty would bunt 
down the first-base line. When the pitcher moved over to field the bunt, 
he collided with 180 pounds of charging, furious bone, muscle, and 
churning, razor-sharp spikes. 

"I was their enemy," Cobb once said. "If any player learned I could 
be scared, I would have lasted two years in the league, not 2,4." 

Even today, more than 20 years after his last season, Ty Cobb still 
defends himself against the charge that he played dirty baseball. Stand- 
ing in a New York hotel room, wearing an old green bathrobe, his body 
crouched over in the way he used to crowd the plate, his neck thrust out 
like an ancient bantam rooster, Tyrus eagerly entered into a rhubarb 
about the way he played the game. 

"Don't let anyone ever tell you I was a dirty ballplayer," he said in a 
high, belligerent voice. "When you're out on those paths, you got to 
protect yourself. The base-paths belonged to me, the runner. The rales 
gave me that right. I always went into a bag, full speed, feet first. I had 
sharp spikes on my shoes. If the baseman stood where he had no busi- 
ness to be and got hurt, it was his fault. 

"Everyone says I deliberately spiked Frank Baker that afternoon. 
Why, the picture of that slide shows I couldn't have done it deliberately. 
Baker didn't even lose an inning," Cobb went on, "but I got 13 Black 
Hand letters and one of the bugs threatened to shoot me from a window 
outside the park." 


The spiking of Frank (Home Run) Baker caused more of a furor 
among the fans of 1910 than Happy Chandler's more recent suspension 
of Leo Durocher. It was a tense, late-season game. The Athletics were 
hattling for the pennant, and Baker was their star. Cobb, who always 
kept his spikes filed to a razor's edge, slid into third base with the speed 
of an express train. When the dust settled, Baker, who had been cover- 
ing the bag, had a deep gash in his arm. 

At the sight of Baker injured, the Philadelphia fans grew murderous. 
Only alert umpires and ushers kept Cobb from being mobbed. Never a 
diplomat, and angered by the furious cries of the crowd, Cobb continued 
to circle the bases as though bent on chewing up the entire Athletic 
team. The fans grew uglier and uglier . . . 

In the next few days, Ty got some interesting mail. The letter that 
excited him most read, "Ty Cobb, Detroit Baseball Club. If you play 
against Philadelphia again, you will be shot from one of the buildings 
outside the park. We know you are yellow, because you showed it when 
you spiked Baker. Now let's see if you are game enough to play in the 
next series. If you do, you are done." 

The newspapers picked up the story, and the fans were gleeful Half 
the baseball citizenry, including Cobb, actually believed the writer of 
the note was serious. "Scared?" Cobb reflected, thinking back about it. 
"Sure, I was scared. How did I know that damn crank wouldn't try it?" 

But when the next game with Philadelphia came due, Ty Cobb trot- 
ted out to center field and played the ball game as though he were sur- 
rounded by loving friends. Only once, in the seventh inning, did he 
show any sign of fright. A car backfired on the street behind the ball 
park. Sam Crawford, playing left field, swore Cobb jumped at least a 

Cobb was more than a rough-and-tumble terror, a fear-inspiring, tiger- 
ish player. He possessed a combination of unbelievable talents, an all- 
around efficiency that has never been equalled by any other ballplayer. 
He could not only out-run and out-hit all other athletes on the dia- 
mond, but he could out-think them as well. He did not rely alone on 
his great, natural ability, and his fine instinct, but became the most 
scientific player the game has ever known. He studied the game, himself, 
and other players. He worked tirelessly to perfect every move he made. 

His teammates tell of times he would get up in the middle of the 
night to jot down some trick or experiment Che was always experiment- 
ing) to try in tomorrow's game. He knew the weakness of every player 
in the American League. His mind kept pace with the blinding speed, 
the beautiful coordination of his bodily movements. 

It is understandable why the aging Tyrus laughs wryly at the way 
fielders now shift around to play hitters like Williams and DiMaggio. 
There was no way to play Cobb. Using a peculiar "sliding" grip on his 

[ 408 ] 

bat, Ty could pick off a peanut anywhere on the field. He could drive 
a ball to left-, right or center field, bunt or drag, even put a "reverse 
English" spin on a bunt to make it stop dead. With Cobb at the plate 
and the Tigers a run behind in a late inning, any Detroit fan would bet 
even money Ty would tie the score. 

Hurlers got rid of other renowned hitters like Ruth, Wagner, and 
Speaker by walking them. But Cobb was too dangerous to put on base. 
Speed and terror were not enough for Ty. He had also developed the 
hook and fall-away slide. He could, and did, score from first on a single. 
He would go from first to third on a sacrifice bunt. He'd score from 
second on infield outs and sacrifice flies. Just for the hell of it, he would 
get himself trapped between bases and then slide in safe. 

It is hard to believe, but old time sportswriters still argue that Cobb 
was even better as an outfielder than he was at bat or on the bases. Most 
of his career he roamed the center garden. But one afternoon, when 
shifted to right field, he threw out three runners at first base! He would 
try for any ball, regardless of personal risk. He once executed a back 
dive into the bleachers, caught his spikes in the rope around the rail, 
landed on his neck, and still held the ball. The baseball writers of his 
time were always reporting a new Cobb feat, hailing it as the greatest 
stunt ever pulled by a ballplayer. But the Georgia Ghost always came 
up with a topper. 

On June 12, 1912, a dazed Philadelphia sportswriter announced to 
the world that he had just seen Cobb do something that could never 
be done again on a ball field. 'Tyrus Cobb," he wrote, ''beat out a 
single to first base. On the next pitch, he stole second. He then shouted 
that he would steal third, and he did. With two strikes on the batter, 
Cobb broke for the plate. The pitch was a little high, and before the 
catcher could pull it down, Ty slid home. The man at the plate hadn't 
swung at the ball, but Cobb had gone all the way around the bases." 

The only thing wrong with the story was that this was not the first 
time Ty Cobb had pulled the stunt. Nor was it the last. Such fine 
catchers as Paul Krichell and Ira Thomas would actually throw a base 
ahead of the one Cobb was trying to steal, in order to make sure he 
wouldn't keep on going. Lou Criger of the Red Sox once threatened 
to show Ty up, telling newspapermen that every time Cobb tried to steal 
the next day, he would throw him out. Ty got on first base four times 
that next afternoon and made four thefts of second, advertising ever)' 
one of them to Criger and the fans before he started his steal 

That peerless humorist, the late Ring Lardner, in one of the innumer- 
able stories he wrote about Cobb, has a rookie pitcher asking his man- 
ager how to get Ty Cobb out. "That's easy," the manager replies caus- 
tically. "You just get a gun and shoot him." 

It was part of the Cobb strategy to steal bases even when the Tigers 

f 10P ] 

were winning by several runs, and the extra bases weren't needed. He 
did it to keep rival players jittery, frantic, on edge. It was a war of 
nerves, planned so that when a stolen base -was important, Cobb had 
the infield so nervous they were prone to bobble the ball. One of his 
cutest tricks was to overtake a runner ahead of him and follow on his 
heels right down to home plate. 

The miraculous deeds of Ty Cobb, his stunning, aggressive, electri- 
fying play, should have put him on a pedestal and made him a hero 
in the eyes of fans and players. But it was just die opposite. As each 
year went by, as his prowess increased, the spectators' dislike grew 
more intense for the hot-tempered, indomitable, self-centered phantom 
of the bases. Each season earned him more enemies. His triumphs were 
greeted with the sullen hatred reserved for conquerors. 

Babe Ruth would miss a third strike and turn from the plate in utter 
dejection, letting the fans see the disgust he felt for himself. It made 
him warm, lovable, human. Old Honus Wagner, who would fight 
through a game with almost the ferocity of Cobb, would accept defeat 
with a genuine smile on his round and rugged face. But Ty Cobb 
never learned how to lose gracefully, or even decently. Whenever a 
decision went against him, he retaliated with snarls and threats. He 
couldn't help it. He was a bad loser. He had a deeply rooted, sincere 
hatred for defeat 

It was not in CobFs nature to admit he had lost, or to show he had 
been hurt. He never cried about the shocking punishment he took. He 
never allowed anyone to suspect that he felt any emotion at all other 
than anger and superiority. He disliked sentimentality. lie hated sym- 
pathy of any kind. To him, life was a battle, winner take all. He had 
few, if any, intimate friends in the brotherhood of baseball. But if it 
bothered him, he never showed it. 

In 1947, when the Dodgers went up against the Yanks in the World 
Series, Cobb was invited by the American League to be a guest at the 
games. On opening day, he stood beside Babe Ruth near home plate 
while the photographers took their picture. The Babe stared out at 
right field. "Looked like the Babe had tears in his eyes/' Cobb said, 
describing it. "Wonderful old guy, at that," he added. "Good fellow. 
Liked kids." If Cobb felt anything that day, it didn't show on his face. 
What he was probably thinking was, "I bet I could get out there now 
and show these young punks a few things," And he probably could* 

When talking about today's baseball, Cobb shows a hearty disdain 
for most of the present stars and the way the game is now played. He 
believes that the "live" ball has spoiled the game, eliminated the speed 
and skill a player needed during the era of the squashy, slow apple. 

"Why, that rabbit-ball they use now has ruined the value of the one 
run and the double steal," he argued, "Outfielders now are no more 

f 410 ] 

than caddies. They don't even attempt to cut loose with a throw to 
stop a run at the plate. Second base is no longer a place that puts a 
runner in scoring position. 

"Nothing means much today/' Cobb said disgustedly. "Some second- 
rate hinky-dink can come up and pop a ball clear to the fence, a hit 
that with the old ball would have barely got out of the infield." 

Cobb did have respect for the great stars of his day, but he seldom 
mentioned it during the years he competed against them. He deliber- 
ately riled them, scoffed at them, or shunned them. Ty believed it paid 
off. Sometimes it did. In 1911, he was fighting it out with the sensa- 
tional Shoeless Joe Jackson for the American League batting crown. 
With 12 games left, Jackson led by nine points. Ty stopped speaking 
to his rival, he cold-shouldered him in hotel lobbies and at the ball park. 
Jackson, an amiable, easy-going man, took Cobb's treatment to heart 

"While he was trying to figure out what it was all about," Cobb once 
explained, "I beat him out. If he had been relaxed and easy, I never 
would have overcome that nine-point lead, because he was a great 

Jackson finished with a .408 season average and it is doubtful that 
he could have beaten out Cobb, even if Ty had not used the silent- 
treatment on him. Ty hit .420 that year. But Tyrus took no chances. 
He worked every advantage. 

He whom the gods would destroy they first make inad, but the 
angrier Cobb became, the greater he played. It couldn't have been 
a secret to him that most of his teammates disliked him intensely. It has 
often been told, and it is undoubtedly true, that some of the Tigers 
would actually tip off opposing hurlers to what they believed were 
Cobb's weaknesses. They were so strongly against Ty that they risked 
losing ball games to cut down on his personal glory. 

The crusade against Cobb got so out of hand in 1910, only five years 
after he had started playing, that American League president Ban John- 
son had to investigate the situation. The trouble reached its height at 
the end of the season when Larry Lajoie of Cleveland and Cobb were 
battling it out for the league batting championship. The Chalmers auto- 
mobile company had offered to give the batting champion a new car, and 
the entire league was rooting for the Cleveland second-baseman to beat 
out Cobb. 

Lajoie was the idol of the day. Kids followed him in the streets the 
way they later followed Ruth. He was a large, barrel-chested, friendly 
man, adored by fans and players alike. Cobb had distinguished himself 
that year by knocking down a colored waiter in a Cleveland restaurant, 
fist-fighting with umpires, and charging into players like a fullback. As 
the season drew toward a close, Ty was several points ahead of the aging 
monarch of swat, Lajoie, Then, in one of the final games, Cleveland 


against the St. Louis Browns, all Lajoie did was to collect eight hits 
in eight times at bat. 

The way that game was played was what caused Ban Johnson's 
investigation. The St. Louis players were accused of merely waving 
their gloves at the ball every time Lajoie hit. The infield played deep, 
allowing Lajoie to reach first on bunts that could have been easily 
fielded. One of the umpires, it was revealed, had been offered a new suit 
of clothes to give big Larry the benefit of the doubt on all plays. The 
ump made several trips to the press box to make sure that Lajoie's 
bunts were being scored as hits! The deal was so raw that league boss 
Johnson later booted both the manager of the St. Louis team and the 
umpire out of the major leagues. In spite of the "rigging/' Cobb won 
the batting championship, .385 to Lajoie's .384. 

The only man Ty Cobb openly admired during his stormy career was 
pitcher Walter Johnson. The big Washington hurler was the complete 
opposite of Tyrus in temperament. He was a kindly, thoughtful, sweet- 
tempered man who loved his fellow ballplayers and never raised his 
voice. Cobb likes to talk about Johnson and how he discovered the 
great right-hander's only weakness. 

"Johnson was the greatest pitcher that ever lived/' Ty says. "Why, 
there's no telling what his record would have been if he had pitched for 
a ball club that could hit. Walter was the best hitter on the team. And 
how he could buzz them in there! He would get faster every inning, 
his curve got better, and his speed ball would look like a pea coming at 

"He sure gave me a lot of trouble/' Ty said. "And then I discovered 
a way to beat him. Walter had only one weakness. He was such a good- 
hearted guy, he was always afraid that one of those fast balls of his 
would bean a batter. When I heard about that, I began to crowd the 
plate. I'd put my toes right against the plate, so that Johnson had to 
shoot for the corners to keep from hitting me. My head sticking out over 
the plate made him. worry so much I'd work him for three balls. Know- 
ing he'd have to get the next one in there, I'd step back and paste it." 
Cobb laughed. "Any other pitcher would have beaned me." 

If Johnson showed mercy toward Cobb, it was never returned in 
kind by Ty toward any pitcher. The Fenway Park fans who gathered 
one day in 1916 to watch the Red Sox and the Tigers in a crucial game 
during the pennant race were treated to the sight of Cobb's Olympian 
anger as he charged from the plate and threw his bat at the head of 
moundsman Carl Mays. A squad of policemen escorted the fuming 
Ty from the field to save him from the bitterly angry, lynch-minded 

Even in Spring training, Cobb played with no holds barred. In a 
pre-season game against the Giants, Ty slammed into second base one 

f U2 ] 

day and spiked Charley Herzog. The players staged a hot verbal tiff on 
the field, but that wasn't enough for the terrible Tyras. He accosted 
Herzog in the lobby of the Oriental Hotel that night and snarled, "If 
you didn't get enough this afternoon, see me any time in my room. 
Ill be there all evening/' 

That was too much for Herzog. With two companions, he went up 
to visit Cobb. Herzog charged into the room and began swinging. It was 
a historic battle, ending with Herzog bent over the back of a bed, out 
on his feet. As he limped dazedly from the room, Cobb shouted after 
him, "If anyone else wants anything, tell 'em to come right up!" 

The only players Cobb respected were those who were not afraid of 
him. One of these was the squat, chunky dynamo of the National 
League, Honus Wagner. Hans was a silent man on the field, and abso- 
lutely fearless. The great Pirate shortstop was considered as fast as Cobb 
on the bases, if not quite as reckless and daring, Cobb enjoys telling 
how he and Wagner met for the first time. 

"I was standing on first base in the 1909 World Series against Pitts- 
burgh," he said. "Honus was at short and I cupped my hands and yelled, 
'Hey, Kraut-head, I'm comin' down on the next pitch!' Wagner didn't 
say anything, but when I got there he had the ball and he slapped it 
into my mouth for three stitches/' 

Cobb could take punishment, but he tolerated taking it only from 
men he thought had superhuman baseball ability, men like Honus 
Wagner. In picking an all-time, All-Star team, Wagner was the first 
player Cobb mentioned. ""He was the best," Cobb said emphatically. 
"There was never anyone like him." 

Others on Ty Cobb's star team were catchers Mickey Cochrane, Bill 
Dickey, and Ray Schalk; pitchers Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, 
and Eddie Plank. At first base, Ty chose George Sisler; at second, Eddie 
Collins; at shortstop, Wagner; on third, Buck Weaver. Then he stopped 
and puzzled for a moment. "In the outfield?" he grinned. "I guess I'd 
say old Joe Jackson in left, Tris Speaker in center, and Babe Ruth in 
right field." 

Ty did his best to make Ruth's life miserable during the years the 
Bambino was rising to fame. In later years, Ruth became quite adept at 
heckling, but old ballplayers say, grinning, "Babe learned most of that 
name-calling stuff from Cobb/' Ty did not enjoy the hero-worship the 
fans bestowed on the Babe, and the fact that Ruth's name could out- 
draw his at the gate. Whenever Detroit played the Yanks, Cobb would 
razz the big fellow unmercifully, hurling every name in the book at him. 
As the teams would change sides between innings, Cobb would trot by 
Ruth, with such taunts as, "Somebody stinks like a polecat! G'wan in 
and strike out, ya worthless bum!" 

Even as a player-manager, as late as 1924, Ty was still riding the 

f "3 J 

Sultan of Swat. In one game, Meusel of the Yanks and Cole of the 
Tigers got into a fight. Ruth was standing at the plate watching it when 
Cobb came charging in from center field and banged into him like a 
lo-ton truck. The Babe began to swing and a thousand fans poured 
out of the stands. It was quite a melee, with the players, cops, and fans 
swinging fists. To Cobb's delight, Ruth drew a $50 fine while Ty got 
off scot-free. 

The one player Cobb has never forgiven is Leo Durocher, It was a 
case of hate at first sight when rookie Durocher broke into the big 
leagues and began to play against Ty. The Lip was probably the only 
player who could dish it out, with his mouth, on a par with the jaw- 
wagging Cobb. Ty was getting on in years, while Leo was full of spunk 
and fight, bouncing players off the base-paths with a hip that swung 
like a barn door. 

Ty would get to first base and Leo would begin to yell. 

"Come on down, you old has-been! I'm waitin' for you. Come on, 
you're yellow!" 

Cobb would go crazy with anger, spluttering oaths at the rookie which 
could be heard by the people in the farthest bleacher seats. He threat- 
ened to murder him. 

"Aw, shut up!" Leo would scream back. "You been terrorizing this 
league for years and now you're gonna get it back! You'd better stay 
there, you old goat!" 

On the next pitch, Cobb would take off like a comet for second base. 
What infuriated him more than anything else was that he could seldom 
hurt or annoy the Durocher kid. Leo was very cute around second base, 
almost as tricky and nasty as the old master himself. Even today, Cobb 
bridles whenever Durocher's name is mentioned. But there is little 
doubt that if Leo had tangled with Ty during the height of the Tiger's 
career, the Lip would have been chewed to pieces. When Cobb was 
mixing it up with Leo, he was crowding 40. 

Cobb was a perfectionist. He often complained bitterly that a life- 
time was too short to solve every detail of hitting. "The longer I live, the 
more I realize that batting is a mental problem rather than a physical 
stunt," he once told a writer. "The ability to grasp the bat, swing at the 
proper time, take a proper stance, all these things are elemental. Bat- 
ting rather is a study in psychology, a sizing up of pitcher and catcher, 
and observing little details that are of immense importance. It's like the 
study of crime, the work of a detective as he picks up clues." 

The worst epithet you could hurl at Cobb was to call him "lucky /* 
It would send him into a towering rage, "I make my own luck!" he 
would shout back at rival players. 

The Detroit phantom has never denied that he played rough-and- 
ready baseball. But he likes to remind you that his wild, slashing, fierce 

f 414 ] 

type of play was a credit to "the red-Hooded game of baseball/' and that 
only a mollycoddle would not learn how to protect himself. In "protect- 
ing himself," Ty had most of the players in the American League run- 
ning for cover or hobbling around nursing their wounds. 

To those casually acquainted with the facts of Ty Cobb's early life, it 
is not easy to recognize what made him such a furious, antagonistic, bit- 
terly competitive athlete and man. If you knew nothing about Cobb's 
boyhood, you might risk a guess that he came from the hungry slums, 
from some poverty-ridden, jungle-like street where the fight for life is 
raw, fierce, and unceasing, where fists and sticks rule and only the strong 

The guess couldn't be more wrong. 

Tyras Raymond Cobb was the eldest son in a distinguished, cultured 
Southern family of considerable means. His father, W. H. Cobb, was 
a State Senator and later a superintendent of country schools. Ty was 
born on December 18, 1886, on a country estate in Narrows, Banks 
County, Georgia, The family also had a home in the nearby town of 
Royston, where Ty spent most of his childhood. 

The fiery genius of the diamond was started on his baseball career by 
a Methodist minister. The Reverend's name was John Yarborough, a 
large, red-haired man who had attended Richmond Academy, where he 
had been a hard-hitting catcher. When he was assigned to the church in 
Royston, brother Yarborough had a great deal of difficulty trying to coax 
the boys of the town to attend Sunday School more regularly. He finally 
won them over by agreeing to act as manager of their ball club. 

"We called the team the Royston Rompers," Yarborough later remi- 
nisced, "and on it was a little, skinny, spare-built fellow named Tyrus 
Cobb. I thought at the time that he was about the best natural ballplayer 
I had ever seen/' 

It was during the time Cobb played on Yarborough's team that the big 
minister learned about the boy's conflict with his father. Senator Cobb 
wanted his son to become a lawyer. Ty had set his heart on being a sur- 
geon. It wasn't a childish wish on young Cobb's part, but one that has 
existed all during his life. His best friends during his baseball days were 
medical men, and he spent many hours in hospitals watching operations. 

It is ironic that Senator Cobb, who objected so strenuously to his 
son's desire to be a doctor, will be honored in the form of the Cobb 
Memorial Hospital, which Ty is building in Royston in memory of the 
distinguished service his parents gave to the community. And it is both 
ironic and bitter that one of Ty's own sons, who did become a physician, 
will not be in any way associated with the hospital, because father and 
son do not get along. 

"I think it is wrong for a father to tell a son what to do," the old ball- 
player said. And then, in almost the next breath, he said, "If that son 

I as] 

of mine would see things the way he ought to, we would be in this 
hospital thing together." 

The memories most clear in Cobb's mind today, closer and more 
poignant than anything in his baseball career, are those early scenes he 
had with his father. Their arguments were frequent and stormy. "I can 
still see him/' Cobb said, "standing tall and stern, his hands behind his 
back, telling me I didn't know what I wanted to be. It made me feel 
that something was wrong with me. 

"He used to send me down to see a friend of his, a judge/' Ty went 
on, "I always knew what was coming. The judge would get me into the 
office, down from the shelves would come Blackstone, and he would talk 
to me about the law and how great a future it held for any young man. 
I used to resent it. I guess I was pretty mean and stubborn about it." 

Playing baseball was an outlet for Ty's emotions. He did not begin 
to play with any desire of becoming a professional. His emotions were 
very close to the surface then, and Yarborough recalled his hot temper, 
the tears that would come to his eyes, the fury with which he played 
the game. Ty began to read all he could about baseball. He bought the 
old Police Gazette, which carried baseball news. He questioned Yar- 
borough for hours about players and rules, and began practicing with 

a vengeance. 

"I was about 17 then," Cobb said. "I remember I had trouble sleeping 
at night. I used to get up and walk through that little townhad about 
24,000 people in it walk all night, look up at the stars, and bum with 
a desire to get away, I felt I was being held in some sort of bondage. 1 
just had to get out of that town. It was about that time I decided I 
would become a ballplayer." 

Secretly, Cobb began to write letters to the manager of the Augusta 
team and other clubs in the South Atlantic League, asking for a trial. 
Nothing happened. Ty then went to the Reverend Yarborough for help, 
knowing that the minister had considerable influence with members of 
the Augusta ball team. Cobb's father heard about it To put it mildly, 
he was both shocked and angry. In those days, in cultured circles, a pro 
ballplayer was looked upon as little better than a hoodlum. 

It was the good Reverend John Yarborough who interceded for Cobb 
with both parties, the Augusta baseball team and Ty's father. The Sena- 
tor was much the tougher obstacle, but the minister was persuasive. He 
convinced the senior Cobb that it was useless to attempt to hold down 
his strong-willed son. "It is better to have him go away with your ap- 
proval/' Yarborough reasoned, "than to have him go without it. And he 
will surely go." 

He was right. Nothing could have stopped Ty, once he decided to 
make the move. The Senator finally yielded, but he never did approve 
of his son's profession. Ty left home under a cloud of silent protest from 


all his family, determined to "show them," and knowing he would never 
return unless he made good. 

Yarborough knew that young Tyrus would not have an easy time of 
it, no matter what profession he chose. He was almost certain that 
Cobb, in spite of his natural talent, would not stay in baseball. As they 
walked to the station, he said, "Tyrus, you will get a berth on that 
Augusta team, but you will not stay there/' 

'Why not?" Cobb flared. "I intend to stay there ." 

'Then be careful," Yarborough warned. "Stop being so bull-headed. 
Learn to take orders. If you don't, you'll be fired before the season is 

Ty Cobb arrived in Augusta in 1904. He paid his own training ex- 
penses, and made the ball team. He lasted exactly two games. In the 
first one, he hit a home run and a double. He whacked the four-bagger 
after the manager, Con Strouthers, had ordered him to bunt. Strouthers 
was a hard-boiled gent, and he tied the can to Ty after the second 
game, telling Cobb he wanted only ballplayers who would do what they 
were told. 

Just three years later, the hard-headed Georgia kid hit .350 for the 
Detroit Tigers, sparked them to a pennant, and finished first in the 
American League batting race. Yarborough, who encouraged him, and 
Strouthers, who fired him, lived to see Ty Cobb become the most sensa- 
tional player of the century. Senator Cobb died a few months before 
his son began his career in the major leagues. 

When the Augusta manager sacked Cobb, Ty wangled an outfield 
berth on the Anniston, Alabama, team in the Southeastern League. In 
22 games, he hit .370. Later in the season, when Strouthers left the 
Augusta club, Cobb, through the help of Grantland Rice, was brought 
back to that team. In 1905, when the Tigers began Spring training in 
Augusta, the major-leaguers got their first look at the then 1 8-year-old 
outfielder. Most of them thought he was not only brash, but crazy. 

Augusta played practice games against the Tigers, and Cobb put on 
a one-man show that delighted the big-leaguers. He ran his legs off, 
shouted and ranted, razzed the great names on the Detroit team, brawled 
with the umpires, and acted as though he owned the baseball world. 
The Detroit players egged him. on. They teased and taunted him. Few 
of them paid much attention to him as a ballplayer. They looked on him 
as an oddity, a clown, a fool kid. That Spring, Bill Armour, the walrus- 
mustached manager of the Detroit team, could have had his pick of any 
player on the Augusta club for $500. Ty Cobb wasn't even considered. 

Ty stayed in Augusta and began burning up the Sally League. Grant- 
land Rice, then an official in the league, kept bombarding the majors 
with reports of Cobb's batting averages. Late in 1905, the Detroit team 
was hard hit by injuries to its outfielders. A desperate Armour sent scout 

f 1*7 J 

Heinie Youngman down to have a look at "that wild, crazy kid we saw 
last Spring." 

When Youngman got to Augusta, Ty was out of the game with a 
spiked thumb. Heinie listened to the reports on Cobb's playing, took 
what he considered a great chance, and signed the young player. Some 
of the newspapers of the time mentioned the deal, not even bothering 
to check the correct spelling of his first name. "Cyrus Cobb, outfielder, 
was signed today for $750 to play for the Detroit Tigers," a one-line 
report read. 

"My name is Tyrus Raymond Cobb," the young Southerner told a 
mildly interested Detroit reporter who approached him during a morn- 
ing practice late in August, 1905. As the reporter smiled and turned 
away, it would have surprised him to know that this was a name he 
was to write thousands of times. 

The explosive young ballplayer was not welcomed by the Detroit 
players with open arms. Apologists for Cobb's belligerent baseball be- 
havior often blame it on the rough, devilish reception the young rookie 
received at the hands of his Tiger teammates. In those days most bush- 
ers took a much heavier hazing than they do now. The wise ones ac- 
cepted their fate with good-natured meekness. Young Tyrus couldn't and 
wouldn't take it. The more he was goaded, the more cocky and aggres- 
sive he became, returning threat for threat. 

Veteran players would shove him aside when he tried to take his turn 
at batting practice, 

"Get out of my way, you old goats!" Ty would storm at them* "I'm a 
better ballplayer now than you'll ever be!" 

Most of the players were from North of the Mason-Dixon line and 
they rode the "Cracker" unmercifully* They sawed his bats in half, tied 
his clothes in knots, cursed him, tried to bully him, heaped on his raging 
head every indignity their active brains could devise. The more it infuri- 
ated Cobb, the more they razzed and hazed him. Within two weeks' 
time, Ty didn't have a friend on the entire ball club. OS the field, he 
took to living alone. What began as playful taunting became serious and 
resulted in enmities that held on year after year. 

If Cobb felt hurt, or minded the way he was badgered and ostracized, 
he never showed it. Even now, he won't admit that it had any other 
effect beyond infuriating him. His tone of voice, when talking about his 
relationship with other Detroit players, is no longer bitter, but It is still 

"The hazing I got from those men," he said, "made me mad* I was 
just a kid and I vowed I'd show 'em. I resented the rough, tough way 
they acted* I soon found out the manners my family had taught me had 
no place in baseball. I decided I'd forget being a gentleman and be 
tougher and meaner than any of them." 

f US ] 

No man ever succeeded at anything so fully. 

Cobb's answer to the treatment he received was to find someone on 
whom he could release his pent-up wrath. He chose another rookie, a 
huge, burly catcher named Charlie (Dutch) Schmidt, It was obvious 
why Ty picked on Charlie. Schmidt was the strongest man in baseball, 
a powerful giant who had once fought the heavyweight champion, Jack 
Johnson. Dutch often drove spikes into the clubhouse floor with his bare 
fists, just for amusement. A genial, likeable fellow, he would throw him- 
self on the ground and defy the entire team to hoist him to his feet. 

The way Ty tormented and bedeviled the easygoing Schmidt gained 
him more newspaper space during his first season in the major leagues 
than anything he did on the playing field. Ty would douse Dutch with 
water, throw things into his food, humiliate and berate him. Schmidt 
took it with the patience of a saint, bewildered by CobVs relentless and 
cruel attacks, doing all he could to avoid a conflict. Finally, unable to 
get Dutch to strike the first blow, Cobb jumped him one day after a 
ball game. 

It wasn't a fight, it was a massacre. Schmidt, who out-weighed Cobb 
by 50 pounds, gave him a fierce beating. Ty would not quit, even when 
Schmidt begged hiiri to cry "uncle/* It finally ended when the Detroit 
players, unable to stand the slaughter any longer, pulled Dutch off the 
battered young Georgian. 

A few weeks later, Cobb tried it again, and took another thrashing. 
For some reason, instead of drawing the Detroit players' admiration for 
his sheer guts and ability to take punishment, Cobb's actions made him 
more despised. All their sympathy was with the victor, the amiable 
strongman, Dutch Schmidt. 

"I had no heart for those fights," the catcher once said* "I was always 
glad when they pulled that kid off me/' 

Years later, Schmidt sided with Cobb in a fight and they became 
friends. But Dutch was always nervous whenever Ty was near him. 

During all the years Ty Cobb played for Detroit, until he became the 
boss himself, his manager was Hug&ie (Ee-Yah) Jennings. The "Ee- 
Yah" man was a warm-hearted, wise character whose sideshows In the 
coaching box delighted the fans. He would suddenly leap into the air, 
screech "Ee-Yah! Ee-Yah," pull handfuls of grass from the ground, and 
carry on like a madman. Any other manager, lacking Hughie's sense of 
humor and tolerance, would have undoubtedly rid himself of the 
troublesome, turbulent Cobb in a hurry. 

It was not possible for Jennings to like Cobb, but he managed to get 
along with him without using his fists. Ty, in turn, was never particu- 
larly friendly with Jennings. It was impossible for him to like anyone in 
those days, particularly anyone from whom he was obliged to take 
orders. Hughie deserved some sort of medal for the diplomacy he em- 

f U9 ] 

ployed during the 14 years die Peach played under him. It must have 
been a bitter blow to Jennings when Frank J. Navin, the Tiger owner, 
fired him in 1920 and put Ty in the saddle as player-manager. 

Cobb's first full season with the Tigers, 1906, and his last one, 1926, 
were the only years during which he was not the most dangerous man 
in the league, and the star of the Tigers. Although he hit over .300 in 
'06, he was just another promising, though very terrifying young player. 
By 1907, freed from the stigma of being a rookie, with a hard shell 
beginning to form over his emotions, Ty cut loose at the plate and on 
the base-paths. Led by Cobb's powerful slugging and speed, the Detroit 
team overtook the mighty Athletics and, with a week of play remaining, 
stormed into Philadelphia trailing the Mackmen by only three points. 

Ty's feats in Philly made him a hero. As much of a hero as he could 
ever be. The Tigers won the first game, 5-4. The second clash between 
the two clubs was to be a double-header. It turned out to be one of 
the most memorable games in baseball. Until the fifth inning of the 
first game, the Athletics led 7-1. Then the furious Detroit team began 
to close the gap, coming into the ninth inning only two runs behind the 
Philadelphia team, 9-7. 

Cobb strode to the plate with a man on first base. The immortal 
Rube Waddell was pitching for the A's. Ty, as usual, was spluttering 
insults in the direction of the pitcher's box. Hughie Jennings was war- 
dancing up and down the third-base coaching line. The fans began to 
ride Cobb, their voices rising to a mighty crescendo of hate. Unknow- 
ingly, they were providing Tyrus with just the sort of background he 
needed to help him rise to the occasion. 

Ty cracked Waddell's first pitch, driving it high and handsome over 
the right-field fence and tying up the ball game. The contest continued 
for 17 innings, and ended in a 9-9 tie score. Cobb's homer, which caused 
the game to end in a tie, put the Tigers a half-game ahead, broke the 
Athletics' spirit, and helped Detroit go on to win the pennant. 

Nothing Ty Cobb did on the ball field had any sort of soothing effect 
on his own truculent disposition, or softened the feelings the Detroit 
players had for him. He continued to live alone. The place he chose, 
a third-rate hotel several streets away from the hostelry where the Tigers 
lived, earned him a reputation as being not only anti-social, but tight 
as a tick. 

Where money matters were concerned, Cobb was as obdurate and 
demanding as Babe Ruth later became. As early as 1908, Ty began his 
holdouts for more money. The 21 -year-old batting champ demanded 
$5,000 a year, then considered an unreasonable amount The news- 
papers took sides, Cobb grew more stubborn, and the Tigers began 
Spring practice without him. Tyrus now says he might have quit base- 
ball if his salary demand had not been settled. 

f 120 ] 

"I wanted security/* he said. "I didn't know when I was going to get 
hurt and be forced out of the game. I wanted to give my best to the 
game, but 1 wanted all the money I could get in return. I didn't want 
to be considered just another muscle-worker. Yes, I was ambitious. Call 
it that. If they hadn't paid me what I felt I deserved, I would have quit 
and gone to college. At the time, nobody believed me when I said it, but 
I really meant it." 

Navin did finally come through, boosting Cobb's salary to $4,500. Ty 
decided it was a fair compromise, picked up his bat, and reported for 
work. But, almost every year after that, he would raise the same com- 
motion about salary, forcing the Detroit boss to up the ante to $9,000 
in 1909, and eventually drawing as much as $40,000 a year for his 
services. Until Ruth, he was the highest-paid athlete in the major 
leagues. Many ballplayers give Cobb as much credit as the Bambino 
for the high salaries now enjoyed by star performers. 

It has often been said that Cobb was a shrewd businessman, a man 
completely at home in the world of high finance, Tyrus always denies it, 
along with the other accusations that he owes his wealth to a combina- 
tion of tight-fistedness and downright luck. Actually, neither interpre- 
tation is entirely accurate. 

The richest retired athlete in the world acquired his extensive collec- 
tion of dollars through years of cautious, conservative investment He 
played the cotton market with some astuteness, but was always carefully 
advised. The automobile industry was coming into its own during Ty's 
early days in Detroit, and he got into several good deals then. His big- 
gest sweep was made in 1921, when he bought a large block of stock 
in the Coca Cola Company. It was then selling at $1.18 a share, and 
he was to see it rise to $181 a share. He now owns stock in dozens of 
companies, has one home in California and another in Georgia, but 
lives most of the time in a beautiful house on Lake Tahoe, in Nevada, 

Cobb values money. He often seems strange and overly cautious when 
it comes to parting with a dollar. For example, when he came to New 
York as a guest of the American League to see the World Series, he 
lived in a small room in a downtown hotel that could hardly be de- 
scribed as first-class. 

"I usually stay at a better place/' he explained self-consciously, "but, 
what the hell, the American League is paying for this one, so I may as 
well use it." 

During Cobb's ballplaying days, he was forever giving his teammates 
tips, urging them to invest their money and plan for the future. Even 
the baseball writers who panned him came in for financial advice when 
Cobb felt in the mood to give it. In Fort Worth, Texas, after he had 
bought the Coca Cola stock, he urged three prominent sportswriters to 
follow his example. 

"He gave us this tip one night in his room," Henry Edwards, then 
with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said. "If we had followed his advice, 
each of us would have made a quarter of a million dollars." 

For a man who was such a shrewd realist, Cobb was unusually super- 
stitious. During days when he was having a good run of hits, he always 
walked to the ball park over the same route, wore the same clothes, ate 
the same food. For most of his playing career, he ate only two meals 
a day, skipping lunch. He always hung his towel on the same peg in 
the dressing room, believing it brought him luck. When a trainer absent- 
mindedly moved it one day, Ty flew into a rage and threatened to anni- 
hilate him. He never allowed a hat to be placed on a bed, and he still 
doesn't. The man who hated to be called "lucky" truly believed in luck. 

Checking Cobb's feats, listening to other players talk about him, listen- 
ing to Cobb, himself, you think, -what an inspiring, wonderful creature 
this man 'would have been without that terrible nature. And then you 
realize that it was just that "terrible nature/' that furious, sadistic, driv- 
ing compulsion, that made Cobb one of sports* immortals. 

All his life, Ty went on working out new methods to improve his 
speed and skill. One day, during Spring training, when Ty was well 
into his thirties, a newspaperman watched a rookie win a foot race 
against Cobb, circling the bases a foot ahead of him. This was news. 
Nobody had ever been faster on the base-paths than Ty. The reporter 
wired the story back to Detroit. 

When Cobb read the story, an angry gleam came into his eyes. He 
called the newspaperman and told him to be sure to get out for the 
practice game the next day. Cobb stole four bases that afternoon, travel- 
ing the paths with the blinding speed of old. After the game, he ap- 
proached the suddenly nervous reporter, carrying a pair of baseball 

"Lift these," Cobb said, scowling at the newspaperman, 

The reporter took them. They seemed to be three times as heavy as 
the ordinary baseball shoe, 

"Yeah," Cobb growled, "weighted shoes. That's what I was wearing 
the day you wrote that story. If you hadn't been so all-fired dumb, you 
would have realized that something was wrong when that kid beat me." 

When Ty cooled off, he went on to explain that he had thought up 
the idea of wearing weighted shoes in training because it would make 
him work harder, make him even speedier when he switched to light 
shoes. He used somewhat the same technique in batting. He was the 
first hitter to swing three bats when warming up before approaching the 
plate. Fans thought it was a show-off stunt. Cobb's crashing hits proved 
they were wrong. 

It always seemed to spectators as though Cobb's daring, slam-bang 
slides gave him deep, physical pleasure, They didn't They could not 

have, particularly early in the season, when his hips were covered with 
raw sliding sores. "But I learned to hit that dirt as though I loved it," 
he explained. "By mid-season, when my hide had toughened up, I was 
thankful that I had forced myself to take it earlier in the year." 

Looking back, the winged Georgian considers 1911, '12, and '13 his 
best years. It is not startling that these were also the seasons when man- 
ager Hughie Jennings found him the hardest to handle, and the ire of 
the fans toward Tyrus reached an all-time high. In Chicago, objecting 
to his hotel room, Ty got into a row with the desk clerk. The room was 
over a railroad track. Ty called Jennings and yelled, "The engines are 
driving me crazy. How do you expect me to hit if I don't get any sleep?" 

Hughie tried to calm Ty down, but neglected to have his room 
changed. That night, Cobb packed up and took off for Detroit. The 
Tigers had to play two games against the White Sox without their star. 
That was mild Cobb behavior compared to what happened a month later 
in New York. 

The stands were packed at Highlander Park that day, filled with loud- 
lunged, anti-Cobb characters. There was one entire section of fans be- 
hind the wooden rail in the left-field bleachers, who devoted all of their 
attention to riding Cobb. They were led by a fan named Lueker, a man 
with a fog-horn voice, who was none too delicate about the insults he 
hurled at Ty. As the game progressed, the fan began to get rougher in 
his abuse and Cobb began to fume. 

Ty did his best to hold his temper. One inning, knowing his turn to 
bat would not come up, Cobb even stayed out in the field, not trusting 
himself to pass the rail along the left-field bleachers. The next inning, 
on his way into the dugout, Lueker cut loose with some more abusive 

When the Detroit side was retired and Cobb started back out toward 
his position, manager Jennings, glancing at him, could tell what was 
going to happen. "I knew he was going to do it," Hughie said later. 
"Once I saw the look in his eyes, I was sure of it. But there was no 
way of stopping him." 

Ty trotted down the left-field line. As he turned to go out into center, 
the fan cut loose with his taunts again. Cobb suddenly swung around 
and charged. He advanced on the bleachers in the direction of the voice, 
vaulted over the rail, and shoved his way through the mass of spectators 
until he reached Lueker, Then he began to punch the daylights out 
of him. 

The fans were so amazed and startled that nobody moved until Cobb 
had finished with Lueker. Nobody could believe what they had seen. 
No ballplayer had ever dared hop into the stands that way. As Cobb 
finished, they began to rise in rage. He had to fight his way back down 
to the playing field. All the Detroit players, led by Wahoo Sam Craw- 


ford, stood along the field brandishing bats. They were certain the fans 
would storm on the field and mob Cobb. They almost did. 

Cobb was, of course, tossed out of the game. When Ban Johnson re- 
ceived the umpires' report of the incident, he suspended Tyrus indefi- 
nitely. The action caused the most amazing series of events in baseball. 
The entire Detroit team met a few days later and decided to go on strike 
until Ty was reinstated! They didn't do it out of love for Cobb, but 
because they knew how much he meant to the team. He was then hit- 
ting over .400. Some of them also felt that Lueker had been overly 
abusive, even for a fan. 

There was a game coming up with the Athletics on May 18 and man- 
ager Jennings, unable to reason with the players, wired owner Frank 
Navin in Detroit Jennings said, in effect, "These guys are not kidding. 
They won't play without Cobb. It will cost us $5,000 for every game 
in which we can't put a team in the field." 

Navin called Jennings and told him to get some sort of team together 
to go against the Athletics. It was "some sort of team," all right. Hughie 
hired some Philadelphia semi-pros, a few sandlot players, and some 
schoolboys from nearby St. Joseph's College one of whom, Al Travers, 
pitched the ball game. He is now Reverend Albert Joseph Travers, a 
priest and teacher at St. Joseph's. 

The "new" Tigers were paid $10 apiece for the game and hurler 
Travers got $25, with a bonus for going the entire nine innings. A curi- 
ous, fun-loving crowd of 20,000 Philadelphia spectators watched the 
Athletics swamp the pick-up team by a score of 24-2. The A's nicked 
Travers for 25 hits. 

The league president, Ban Johnson, literally blew his top when he 
heard about the farce. He cancelled the Monday Philly-Detroit game 
and called in all the Detroit players. He read them the riot act, 

"Unless this team reports for its scheduled game in Washington on 
May 21," Ban stormed, "I will drive every single one oi: you out of 

Ban undoubtedly meant it. Amazingly enough, it was Ty Cobb who 
suddenly sided with Ban Johnson and urged the players to halt the 
strike. They finally did. They played the game in Washington, winning 
2-0. Johnson fined practically every player on the team $100. Cobb got 
off with a $50 clip and a lo-day suspension. 

Later in the season, Ty and his wife were driving toward the rail- 
road station in Detroit. Three men jumped on the running board of the 
car and one of them slashed at Ty with a knife. Cobb was badly cut, 
but he stopped the car and fought off his attackers. The incident was 
reported to the police, but the thugs were never caught. Newspaper 
accounts seem to agree that the attack was arranged to avenge the beat- 
ing Cobb had given the fan in Highlander Park. 

[ 124 ] 

Cobb went right on fighting. He suffered broken ribs, fingers, and 
thumbs. He fought in and out of the ball parts. One day it would be 
a husky Detroit butcher-boy whom Ty would take on in a street brawl. 
The next it would be a player or an umpire. The fight between Cobb 
and umpire Billy Evans is still rated by the ballplayers and fans who 
saw it on a par with the Dempsey-Firpo tiff. It took place under the 
Detroit stands after a ball game, and it went on for fully an hour* Evans, 
who knew how to handle his fists, gave Ty a terrific pasting until Cobb 
got the upper hand by using rough-and-tumble, Indian-fighter tactics, 

The years rolled ahead and the Detroit Tigers slumped as a ball club, 
but Ty Cobb went on burning up the league. At the age of 32, in 1918, 
when the Germans were advancing on Chateau-Thierry, Ty Cobb was 
leading the league with an average of .382. He laid aside his well-worn 
cudgel and joined the Army, working up to the rank of captain in the 
Chemical Warfare Division. The war was over before he could get into 
action, and, in 1919, he was back in a Tiger uniform again, ready to take 
over. He took over. Ty Cobb won his I2th batting championship, in 
1919, clouting a brisk .384. 

By 1921, he was considered, at 35, a really old ballplayer. He was 
suffering from a fractured rib, torn ligaments, all the battle scars and 
aches and pains collected in 17 years of ferocious competition. Everyone 
said he was surely through by now. Why didn't he retire? 

Ty Cobb had proven all there was to prove by now. 

He held almost all the records. He had a bankful of money. He was 
seemingly a happily married man. It was high time for the obstreperous 
old warhorse to quit. Even the fans who hated him the most didn't want 
to see him go on playing, weakening his record, ruining his reputation 
as the greatest player of his time. 

They had Ruth to love. They didn't need Cobb to hate. 

Why didn't he quit? 

Cobb couldn't quit. He couldn't quit as long as he could still run and 
hit and pick a rhubarb with an umpire or a player. 

Ty took over as the player-manager of the Tigers. He took over with 
fight and enthusiasm, digging in like a rookie working to make the 
team. The Tigers were given a new life, Sportswriters covering Spring 
training wrote that they got baseball morning, noon, and night, that it 
was an education to "watch the old boy put zip into the club." 

Under Ty's magic hand, the batting average of the team began to sky- 
rocket. He could certainly teach 'em to hit. From seventh in club bat- 
ting average, the Tigers climbed into first place in the American 
League, chalking up a team average of .316. Ty pitted player against 
player on his own team. He infused them with the rivalry and anger 
that he always felt on the playing field. He egged the genial Harry 
Heilmann into riding Bobby Veach into becoming a great slugger. 

[ 125 ] 

"I don't care what you say to him/' Cobb ordered Harry. "Call him 
yellow, call him anything. But make him mad and keep him that way. 
That'll make him hit!" 

Heilmann, who followed Veach to the plate, rode him into the 
ground. But Bobby hit a brisk .338, When Harry tried to explain, at the 
end of the season, that it was all a grg, a plot, Veach wouldn't listen to 
him. Ty was supposed to patch it up, but he never did. 

Moving Into his 4oth birthday, still scampering around bases for the 
Tigers as a player-manager, Ty mowed through still another season, 
thumping out a staggering .378 average, being crowded out of the bat- 
ting championship by Harry Heilmann, the youngster he had helped 
fashion into a great hitter. By this time, scribes and fans alike had 
thrown up their hands, believing Tyrus Raymond Cobb would play 
baseball forever. 

Poor old Ty Cobb, still stealing bases like a kid. At 40, still dashing 
for home to win a ball game, crossing up Infields, scaring the living hell 
out of ancients and rookies alike. A worn, tired, battle-happy wreck, 
who, by some magic, was still able to send a screaming double to any 
field, lay down a perfect bunt, dive into the stands and snare a ball with 
the same daring he did back when Teddy Roosevelt was president and 
life was "bully." 

How he was able to do It, nobody has ever been able to figure. When 
he left the Tigers in 1926, he still wouldn't rack up his bat He went on 
to play two more years for Connie Mack, for the Athletics, the team 
that had the distinction of hating him more than any other. By that 
time, it was an honor to have fought against Cobb, to have been singled 
out for a hunk of the Cobb wrath, to have been battered and spiked 
by him. 

On May 10, 1927, some 23 years after his first game In a major-league 
uniform, the 41 -year-old Ty Cobb was again under suspension by the 
aging Ban Johnson. All he had done was hit a home run for the Athletics 
In a game against the Red Sox. It was a ninth-inning homer that would 
have tied the score. The ball was fair when It sailed out of the park, but 
a young plate ump named Ormsby had die temerity to say it curved 
foul just as it disappeared. Ty pushed him around somewhat. Cobb was 
still Cobb. 

He started his career in 1905, against the New York ball club, as a 
pinch hitter. He ended it the same way on September n, 1928, against 
a New York team in Yankee Stadium. There was a difference. Nobody 
knew who the kid at the plate was on that August day In '05. But 
nobody had to be told who it was stepping up there to pinch hit for 
Jimmy Dykes of the Athletics on that day in 1928. For a quarter of a 
century they had watched, in anger and fascination, the man with the 
peculiar grip on the bat, left hand high, right hand low. They had 


watched him stand with neck thrust out, body crouched over the plate, 
showing them an angry, determined, scornful, and fighting face. 

Yes, there was a difference. This time he grounded out. 

The world didn't seem to change so rapidly for Ty Cobb while he was 
still playing baseball. Everything seemed dreadfully changed and differ- 
ent after it was over. He had money and fame. There was still hunting 
and golf in Georgia, the big home in California, but nothing seemed 
to work out right. 

The war was over, but the warrior couldn't seem to adjust. He quar- 
reled with his wife, the tiny Charlie Lombard Cobb who had been with 
him since 1908, through almost all his playing years. She wanted to 
divorce him. He didn't want that. He fought against it, but he also 
fought against himself. He couldn't seem to fit in anywhere. He grew 
mean and cantankerous. And there wasn't any ball field, with the rough 
bodily contact that could work away the angry moods. 

The quarrels went on. His five children moved away from home and 
Ty closed up the family house in Atherton, California. He rigged up 
booby-trap contraptions, water buckets and the like, to keep strangers 
away. He traveled around the country, talked to old ballplayers, got 
mellow and then sad over the drinks and the talk. 

Now and then there would be a quote in the newspapers. Ty Cobb 
criticizing the way a star of today plays. Ty Cobb telling about how it 
used to be. But nothing seemed to go right for him. 

What do you do when you can't hit and run any more? 

He was arrested for recldess driving in Placerville, California, enter- 
ing into a rhubarb with the judge, who slapped him into jail for two 
hours. It was not quite like being sent to the showers. You can't get back 
at a judge the way you could at a rival player or an umpire. There was 
no fun in it, no angry, yelling fans in the stands. Nothing, His Reno 
divorce became final. Some of the papers mentioned, along with per- 
sonal, humiliating details, what a great ballplayer he had been. 

He remembers the far-away words of his father that day he left home 
to play ball. The stern, disapproving man he loved, who said, "Align 
yourself on the side of right and fear no man." 

He feared nothing. But there is nothing and nobody to swing at any 

Many of the old ballplayers he crashed into, bullied, and fought 
against have forgiven him. Standing in the tiny New York hotel room, 
scarred legs showing beneath the old green bathrobe, he mashes a piece 
of sugar into a glass with a fountain pen, pours a little bourbon on it, 
and tells you how it was in 1910, in '17 and '2,3. It is hard for him 
to sit still. The nervous energy is still there, the longing for action, for 
something to happen. 

The telephone rings and he rushes for it. His voice, as he speaks into 

[ 127] 

It, is loud and rasping. "Why, Joe, you old so-and-so! If you don't get 
right on up here, I'll come down and knock you on your can! Get up, 
d'ya hear?" 

The old ballplayer comes into the room and Cobb thumps him on the 
back. There is something frantic and terrible about his enthusiasm. 
You know what it is later, when he quiets down and says, "Joe, you just 
got to come up to my place in Nevada. Stay as long as you like. Fin all 
alone up there, just me and the housekeeper. Children all married and 
gone. Now, what do you say, Joe? How about it?" 

But that is not the way to leave him. It is better to leave him at the 
plate or on the base-paths he ruled like a king for so many years. Leave 
him on second base, as he was at 19, or 24, or 38 on second and takino- 
a long lead, taunting the pitcher, getting set to spring tigerlike for third. 
And then, spikes flashing, down he goes, moving with the terrifying 
speed only he could summon, and then the beautiful fall-away slide. 

That is the only way Ty Cobb, the greatest ballplayer of all time, 
should be remembered. 


Ty Cobb is the choice of most diamond experts as the all-time player. 

[ 129 } 

Besides his great hit- 
ting and fielding, Ty 
is remembered for 
his exploits on the 
base paths where his 
speed often broke 
up tight ball games. 

7 -/' 

Wide World 

McGraw, Cobb, and Hornsby (left to right) dominated game In early 20's. 

f 130 ] 


Lou Gehrig's rare courage overshadowed his achievements on the field. 

f< 1 

Widr World 

Bob Feller rose from Iowa farm boy to baseball's biggest wage-earner. 

f i32 I 

From a painting by Griffith Foxley 

Most famous of the St. Louis Gas House Gang was comical Dizzy Dean. 



Ted Williams is the only AL batter since Harry Heilmann to hit .400. 

Williams is almost as 
famous for his tempera- 
ment as he is for stick- 
work. Ted can start a 
controversy as easily as 
he can get a hit at 
Fenway Park in Boston. 

prom a painting by Griffith Foxley 

Late Giant boss, John McGraw, was a hard-boiled, successful manager. 

Wide World 

In the second fight with Schmeling, Louis won by a kayo in the first round. 

Wide World 

Joe almost let title slip away in '41 before halting Billy Conn's bid. 


Joe Louis' heavyweight reign was the longest in ring history. 

[ 137 ] 


Connie Mack's managerial career in baseball dates back to late 1 890's. 

[ 138 ] 


An all-time shortstop, Wagner was NL batting champ eight years. 

Wide World 


Honus Wagner is still a familiar figure in uniform as a Pirate coach. 

[ 139 ] 

Jack Dempsey (left) 
took the heavy- 
weight title from Jess 
Willard on July 4, 
1919, dropping the 
champin third round. 

Inter national 

Wide World 

The seventh-round "long count" helped Tunney beat Dempsey in '27 bout. 

[ MO | 

From a painting by Griffith Foxle 

Jack Dempsey found a popularity in defeat he'd never known in victory. 

f i4i ] 

..: . 


From a painting by Griffith Foxley 

No one meant more to baseball and fans the world over than Babe Ruth, 

[ 142 ] 


The Babe's famous record of 60 home runs in one season was set in 1 927. 

Wide World 

Ruth's love for kids was exceeded only by the way they worshipped him. 


The head of a great- 
baseball family, Joe 
DIAAaggio's matchless 
play In center field and 
at bat has sparked the 
Yankees since 1936. 

irV/? World 

Always near the top in batting, DiMag Is one of game's great fielders. 


{ 144 ] 


of the 

IT WAS early April and although the center-field clock showed 
there was more than an hour before game-time, the stands were 
filling up rapidly. This was the first visit of the Red Sox to Yankee 
Stadium in 1947 an< ^ there was a sense of anticipation in the air. The 
Yanks were just finishing up their batting practice and the Red Sox 
had not yet come on the field. Joe DiMaggio was leaning on his bat 
on the steps of the home dugout, talking to a couple of reporters. 

A mild cheer of greeting, mingled with a few perfunctory boos, sig- 
nalized the advent of Boston. As the gray-flannelled players piled up the 
steps of the dugout on the third base side, DiMaggio stopped talking 
and looked intently across the diamond. The sixth or seventh Boston 
player to emerge from the tunnel entrance was a stocky, almost chunky, 
individual whose eye-glasses bestowed upon him an expression of in- 
tense studiousness. He turned toward the Yankee bench and, because 
of his glasses, seemed to be peering in that direction with myopic con- 

Joe spotted the newcomer and waved a greeting, calling, "Hey, Di- 

"Hey, DiMag!" responded the Red Sox player, also waving an arm in 

Thus did the brothers DiMaggio fraternize in their first reunion since 
their paths crossed briefly in Florida during Spring training. 

There have been famous brothers in baseball before. But the DiMag- 
gios, Joe and Dom, are unique in that their personalities follow almost 
the identical phlegmatic pattern, with emotions rarely showing on the 

There were, for instance, the Ferrells. Wes, the pitcher, was capable 
of great mound performances and equally sensational demonstrations 
of temper. Rick, the catcher, was quiet, easy-going, and efficient. And 

f i45 J 

the Meusels. Bob of the Yankees, who was taciturn to the point of being 
morose, and Emil, who had the curious nickname of Irish, and who 
went through pennant drives under John McGraw with a smile on his 
lips and a song in his heart. 

And surely there never were two brothers with more widely dissimi- 
lar personalities than the Deans, heroes of the St. Louis Cardinals' Gas 
House Gang, Dizzy's loquaciousness was such that it was inevitable he 
should wind up as a radio announcer, while it was as great an effort 
for Paul to mumble a greeting as It would be for the average ballplayer 
to address the United States Senate. A story about the Deans is worth 
introducing at this point. 

In the fourth game of the 1934 World Series between the Cardinals 
and the Tigers, Dizzy injected himself into the game as a pinch-runner. 
He did this entirely without advice of counsel, which is to say Manager 
Frankie Frisch. Fie was forced at second base by the next hitter, but in 
an effort to break up the threatened double play, Diz used his head. And 
in a most peculiar fashion. He leaped high into the air and was hit 
squarely on the forehead by the relay of Billy Rogell. 

As Dizzy fell flat between the baselines, and the ball caromed away 
into right field, there was no sound from the packed stands at Sports- 
man's Park. Eventually a stretcher appeared, and Diz was carried from 
the arena amid anguished silence. Trotting alongside the stretcher bear-' 
ers was Paul, looking on the recumbent form of his brother with fra- 
ternal concern. 

That evening a couple of other writers and myself met Paul in the 
lobby of a St. Louis hotel. We inquired anxiously as to Dizzy's condi- 
tion, and he told us Diz would be able to pitch against Detroit the 
next day. 

'Wasn't he unconscious when they took him from the field?" we 

"Oh, no," Paul assured us, "He was all right. He was even talking." 

"Talking?" we asked. "What was he saying?" 

"Nothing," replied Paul. It was one of the finest, and most accurate, 
descriptions of Diz's conversation anybody ever made. 

In comparison with the DiMaggios, the laconic Paul is almost a 
gabby-gut. There is a story that Joe once took Dom to dinner at a New 
York restaurant, during his younger brother's first season with the Red 
Sox. Maybe the story's true, and maybe it isn't, but it serves to point 
tip the reputation of the DiMaggios for conversational thrift. 

They seated themselves silently and inspected the menus handed 
them. Joe gave an order and the waiter turned inquiringly to Dom. 

"The same," said Dom. 

According to the story, they ate without uttering a word. As they 
finished their dessert Joe, the host, broke the silence. 


"More coffee?" he asked Dora. 

"No/' replied Dom, adding in what, for him, amounted to a burst 
of speech, "thanks." 

Don't for a second imagine the reticence of Joe DiMaggio and his 
brother stems from a lack of intelligence. It's just that neither of them 
has much talent for small talk. You can get a sound, if guarded, opinion 
from either on any baseball question. Whether Joe, who reached the 
Yankees as a full-blown star, set the conversational style for the brothers, 
is a matter of debate. Joe, as a rookie with a great reputation and tremen- 
dous publicity preceding him into the majors, was cautious. Schooled 
by Joe McCarthy, who had an unholy fear of being misquoted in the 
public press, DiMag avoided committing himself on his own chances o 
making good in the majors. 

The natural result was that the writers covering the Yankees during 
DiMaggio's first Spring in St. Petersburg concluded he was a dead-pan. 
They instinctively knew Joe wasn't dumb, and his reactions on the field 
proved it. DiMag wasn't seeking any extra-curricular publicity and was 
content to stay in his shell. As he grew to maturity with the Yanks, Joe 
made several close friendships among sportswriters and those who enjoy 
his confidence find him an excellent companion. To all, DiMag has been 
carefully polite. No writer ever has had cause to complain of being 
brushed off by the Yankee Clipper. 

That Dom should be co-starring with him in the American League 
remains a big surprise to Joe. He explained to me that he still regards 
Dom as his "skinny kid brother, wearing eye glasses." Vince, who fol- 
lowed Joe into the majors, was playing professional ball in the Coast 
League when Joe was a sandlotter and Dom a sort of tag-along youngster 
who hung around on the outer fringes of the games, 

"You see, when I went away for my first Spring training trip with 
San Francisco, Dom was only 15," related Joe, "and none of us ever 
thought of him as a ballplayer because he was so much smaller than the 
rest of us and wasn't even playing on any of the neighborhood teams. 

"I was in my second year with the Yanks when I heard Dom had 
been signed by San Francisco, the club Vince and I had broken in with. 
Everybody, or it seemed that way, accused Charley Graham of signing 
Dom only because he already had two brothers in the majors and the 
Seals wanted to cash in on the publicity. Then I read a story quoting 
Lefty O'Doul, for whom I have a great respect, to the effect that Dom 
was a better ballplayer than either Vince or I was at the same stage of 
our development. Remember that at this time I'd never seen Dom in a 
baseball uniform. 

"Graham was hot on Dom from the start. He switched him from short- 
stop to the outfield, and Dom took to it almost at once. Graham told me 
he could come in on a ground ball like an infielder and take a drive over 

[ 147 ] 

his shoulder like Jigger Statz, who was a Coast outfielding hero for 
years* I still had to see Dom to believe it." 

Despite Joe's interest in his kid brother, he had to follow him by ear 
for a few years. Dom had completed his second year with the Seals 
before Joe got a chance to see him play in a post-season game. Joe be- 
lieves it was the same game in which Joe Cronin, the Boston boss, saw 
Dominic for the first time. 

Cronin, a fellow San Franciscan, had received glowing reports on the 
talents of the youngest of the DiMaggios. But, like so many ballplayers, 
he had a prejudice against eye-glasses. Incidentally, and quite apart 
from this story, it may be said that Dom's success has made the path lots 
easier for bespectacled ballplayers. Since Dom made good, whopping big 
prices have been paid for minor-leaguers with glasses, such as Billy 
Rigney of the Giants and Earl Torgeson'of the Braves. 

Where Dominic is concerned, Joe is something of a split personality. 
On one side he sees Dom as his kid brother, and is understandably 
proud of his success. On the other he sees him as a fellow professional, 
and makes a sound impersonal appraisal of his assets. 

Dominic's outfielding stance is rather unorthodox. He stands with his 
left foot toward home plate, his body facing the left fielder. This enables 
him to get a terrific jump on balls hit behind him and he has pulled 
down many a line drive, not merely fly balls, which seemed destined to 
go over his head for extra bases. Dom charges ground balls like a short- 
stop and his throwing arm is deadly, perhaps the best of all the Di- 
Maggios. Which is high praise indeed, for both Joe and Vince have 
exceptional arms. 

Joe was a little surprised at Dom's stance but never attempted to have 
him alter it. "It suited Dom," explained the elder brother, "and he appar- 
ently knew what he was doing." 

Concerning his ability to handle ground balls, Joe has only the high- 
est praise for Dom. "I was certain he was charging ground balls too 
recklessly but I haven't seen one go through him yet," declared Joe. 
"Even when he doesn't field the ball cleanly, he blocks it with either 
the heel of his glove or his wrists so it's right in front of him for a 

In the exuberance surrounding the first Red Sox pennant in almost 
three decades, there were many Boston writers in 1946 who advanced 
the daim that Dom, rather than Joe, was the DiMag, that he had suc- 
ceeded the Yankee Clipper to the pre-eminent baseball position in the 
family. On the face of it, there was much to justify their claim, most 
of it because of a negative performance by Joe. 

Dom had his best year since coming into the majors that season 
while Joe, beset by marital and financial troubles, had his poorest. Dom 
outhit the Clipper by 26 points, .316 to .290, but Joe, as usual, had the 

f 148 ] 

"wood" on Ms side. He out-homered his kid brother, 25 to seven, and 
drove in more runs, 95 against 73. And the way Joe slipped back into 
the pre-war groove in '48 when he hit a steady .320 and led the majors 
in RBFs with .156 made it evident that Dom, at the plate, never will be 
any more than a light carbon copy of Joe, In the field, the younger 
brother has more speed than Joe, can go farther for a ball, and throw 
more accurately. 

Despite their affection, the brothers do not see too much of each other, 
except for the 22 games the Red Sox and Yanks play against each other. 
Joe, when his marriage went on the rocks, made several valiant attempts 
at reconciliation, all of which went down the drain in the Summer of 
1946 when his wife remarried. 

With the breach between him and his wife beyond bridging, Joe 
turned all his love to his son, Little Joe, who is now well past his seventh 

DiMag spends most of the off season in the comparative solitude of a 
New York hotel room. Occasional visits with Little Joe are the closest 
he comes to enjoying the life of a father. 

Joe, of course, is not without friends in the big city. But he's no social 
butterfly and is inclined to be highly selective in his close friendships. 
Jimmy Ceres, an intimate pal of DiMag's ever since Joe broke into the 
majors, chauffeurs Little Joe around on visits to his dad. 

Ceres is a character in his own right. Outside of the fact that he lives 
in Newark and seems comfortably off, little is known of Jimmy. The 
general contours of his profile suggest he may once have been in the 
ring. He idolizes Joe and Little Joe and his car is their accepted mode 
of transportation around New York. It is Jimmy who drives Little Joe 
to the ball park after he has deposited his pop there first. 

"Little Joe is getting so he can tell me exactly which turns to make 
to get to Yankee Stadium/* Ceres proudly told Joe. 'If I try to fool 
him by taking a different route, he tells me we're not going in the right 

'That's because the kid is smarter than you are, Jimmy/' kidded Di- 

^Could be/' agreed the faithful Jimmy, beaming happily. 

Big Joe is quite conscious of his parental duties toward Little Joe. And 
it may truthfully be said that because Little Joe has the run of the 
Yankee locker room, the Yanks are one of the least profane clubs in 
baseball. Ballplayers are an earthy lot, and their language at times is 
salty and picturesque. Out of deference to the DiMaggios, father and 
son, the boys are on their good behavior most of the time. And the Clip- 
per is mighty careful to see that Little Joe is seen but not heard. 

Little Joe, for a small boy, handles a baseball cleverly, although this 
may be entirely due to the number of afternoons he spends at Yankee 


Stadium, and not from inherent skill. When he was posed by a photog- 
rapher with his dad, each in a batting stance, it was noted that Little Joe 
gravely copied his father, holding the bat at the end, resting it on his 
right shoulder, feet spread wide apart 

People who know both Dom and Joe fairly well, and are asked to 
compare their personalities, are likely to answer something like this: 
"Well, neither talks much but Dom is more sensible than Joe/' 

This analysis is somewhat unfair to Joe and is usually based upon the 
tangled status of his business affairs, a tangle caused by circumstances 
rather than by any lack of sense on the part of the Clipper. To under- 
stand the tangled web, you have to go back a few years and remember 
the DiMaggios were divorced while Joe was in service. 

DiMaggio enlisted in the Army Air Forces after the 1942 World 
Series. All that season there had been rumors he and his wife were split- 
ting up, but every separation was followed by a reconciliation. Every one 
but the last, that is, and that culminated in a Nevada divorce. Joe made 
a cash settlement and agreed to contribute to the support of Little Joe. 

Since the divorce was granted while the Clipper was in service, 
Mrs. DiMaggio had all his business papers. And until Joe returned from 
the Panama training camp in 1946 he still entertained hopes they would 
remarry, so the files remained in her possession. 

When Mrs. DiMaggio married George Schubert, a Wall Street 
broker, she turned over all the papers to Joe. The result was the Clipper 
wound up in a hotel room full of steel filing cabinets. Aside from the 
entangled matter of squaring his income tax for 1942, Joe paid little 
attention to his business affairs. He changed legal representatives almost 
as often as he changed suits. 

Living out of a suitcase, as the Clipper was most of the time, it was 
inevitable that papers should become lost or mislaid. One of the missing 
papers was a contract he had with the publisher of his autobiography. 
The book, which has sold 50,000 copies, a remarkable number for a 
sports book, has not been profitable to Joe, as a result of the missing con- 
tract and the peculiar involvements with the publisher, who had the 
book printed but did not handle its distribution. It took a year and a new 
arrangement with the distributor before Joe got any returns from the 
book at all. 

Dominic has had no such tangled skein to unravel as Joe. When Dom 
went into service he left no loose ends dangling behind him. He has 
only the usual financial problems that confront every young husband 
trying to make his way in the world. The suspicion persists, however, 
that the younger brother is somewhat more of a realist. 

Dom received a fair return for permitting the use of his nickname 
(The Little Professor) in a cartoon in a Boston daily in 1946, although 
the cartoon contained nothing more dynamic than Dom, wearing a pro- 

[ 450 ] 

lessor's mortarboard, holding a thermometer showing the number of vic- 
tories Boston required to win 102 games, the total he had predicted for 
them. The Pied Sox won 104. 

Dom met Emily Frederick, pretty Boston socialite, in 1943 and they 
were married after the 1948 season. He has always enjoyed more home 
life than Joe. Before his marriage, Dom always spent the Winter with 
the DilVfaggio family in San Francisco. 

For all Joe's making New York his permanent residence, the DiMag- 
gios remain a close-knit, cohesive family. Papa DiMaggio still waits up 
for the morning papers to read the box scores and see how his sons are 
doing. When Joe was the only one in the majors, the old man would 
refuse to eat if Joe went hitless. During Christmas in '48, Joe, Dom and 
his bride, and Vince with his wife and two children gathered at the 
DiMaggio home at 2150 Beach Street in San Francisco for the holidays. 
It was the first Christmas since the Winter before the war that Joe had 
been home. 

There were nine children in the DiMaggio family, four girls and five 
boys. Of the boys, it was the three youngest who became professional 
baseball players. The reason only the last three DiMaggios took to base- 
ball is understandable enough. The family was becoming more Ameri- 
canized, and the younger kids didn't have to pitch in and work as many 
hours with the family fishing enterprise as their older brothers. Joe's 
instant success in professional baseball won over his parents to the game, 
which they looked upon with suspicion \yhen Vince began playing in 
the Coast League. 

Although the DiMaggios were traditionally a family of fishermen, the 
sea, as a commercial proposition, never appealed to Joe. The small smack, 
loaded to the gunwales with the day's catch, was a trifle too odoriferous 
for the Clipper, who had a queasy stomach even as a kid* 

"I really couldn't take fishing as a business," explained Joe, "although 
I always liked to fish for fun and still do. It used to make my pop sore 
when I told him the smell of the boat made me sick and I don't know 
whether his pride was hurt over the fact that I wasn't a dawn to dusk 
fisherman, like the rest of the family, or because he considered it a dis- 
grace that a DiMaggio should admit to having a weak stomach. 

"Dom, however, was different. Smaller and younger than I, the kid 
thought nothing of pitching in with the rest of the family. On their fish- 
ing trips, he was a great deal more help than I was. My share of the 
work was usually done on land, mending the nets and helping clean the 
boat. I was glad when I was able to pick up a few pennies selling papers 
and helped out the family that way. Pop said I finally got a job that 
suited me when I peddled papers. I had nothing to do but stand still and 

Sandlot games on Sundays started to make some money for Vince, 

[ 151 j 

more than Joe was getting for peddling papers at the top of his lungs, 
and then Joe "began to eye the Sunday games as a profession, rather than 
a lark. He, too, began playing ball for what was literally coffee-and-calce 


While Vlnce played for a San Francisco farm club at Tucson, Ari- 
zona, Joe started playing serious baseball in a local Boys' Club League. 
From there Joe progressed to the Sunset Produce team in a Class A 
league, and in 18 games for that club he put together a fancy .623 bat- 
ting average. That lofty figure won him a pair of expensive spikes, the 
first good ones he'd ever owned. 

Vince, meanwhile, was knocking down fences at Tucson, but soon 
found himself out of a job when the whole league collapsed. Recalled by 
the Seals, he stuck with Charlie Graham's club for the rest of the season. 

When the Seals needed a shortstop to finish out the last few games of 
the 1932 season, Vince recommended Joe for the job. Joe got it, played 
three games at the spot Frankie Crosetti had vacated to go to the New 
York Yankees, and hit ,222. One of Joe's two hits was a lusty triple. In 
all, he went to bat nine times. He also threw the ball into the grand- 
stand once, pegging to first. 

But the Seals invited him to show up for Spring training in 1933, and 
Joe was content* He didn't expect anyone to hand him a contract on a 
silver platter, but he was going to get his chance. 

Joe, of course, eventually displaced Vince on the Seals. Vince was 
released after Joe made good in the San Francisco outfield. In his first 
year in professional ball, before he was 19 years old, DiMag astounded 
not only the Pacific Coast League but the nation as well by hitting in 6 1 
consecutive games before he was stopped by Ed Walsh of Oakland, son 
of Big Ed Walsh, the old-time White Sox spitball artist. 

When the spotlight centered on Joe's batting streak, it was inevitable 
that the DiMaggio family should be caught in the outer perimeter of its 
white glare. Papa DiMaggio beamed proudly to his neighbors. His boy 
Joe was making good against what he called "grown men" and further- 
more, getting well paid for it. Joe was making $225 a month. 

Papa DiMaggio was so interested in Joe's baseball exploits he even 
forgot about the old Italian game, bocci which may be said to resemble 
lawn bowling. 

"Bocci ball?'' he laughed. "No money in bocci ball Baseball, that's the 
game." It wasn't long before Joe's father was proven a very smart man. 

Even after the family had revelled in Joe's successes with the Yanks, 
and when Vince followed him to the majors, they weren't too keen 
about Dom becoming a ballplayer. His pop wanted Dom, with his eye- 
glasses and the owlishly studious expression they gave him, to become a 
lawyer. Young Dom had his heart set on joining Joe and Vince in the 

f 152] 

San Francisco is possibly a city without peer for civic loyalty and 
sports-consciousness, and it was only natural the DiMaggios should be- 
come something of an institution around town as a result of the family's 
baseball fame. Indeed, when Joe first came up to the Yankees, his home 
runs were deemed of sufficient civic importance to be broadcast over the 
police radio system. Because of the four-hour time difference and the 
fact that there were no night games in the American League in 1936, at 
high noon San Francisco prowl cars would be informed, "DiMag has hit 
another/* This information was broadcast on no fewer than 29 occasions 
in Joe's freshman season with the Yankees. 

Although Joe and Vince played against each other only occasionally, 
and then Just in exhibition games, the Clipper and Dom have had many 
a brush. The Little Professor has robbed Joe of many an extra base hit 
and at one time threatened the extinction of the remarkable batting 
streak of 56 consecutive games which Joe compiled in 1941. 

On July i that season, against the Red Sox, DiMaggio tied the 43- 
year-old record of Wee Willie Keeler by hitting safely in both games of 
a doubleheader to run his string to 44 straight games, Playing the Red 
Sox again next day, the Clipper belted a long drive against Heber New- 
some, but Stan Spence hauled it down after a long run. On his next 
trip, Joe again connected solidly, but this time it was Dom who gave 
chase and made a remarkable catch of the drive. 

By this time DiMaggio was desperate. He had tagged Newsome twice 
and each time a phenomenal catch had deprived him of a hit And one 
of the catches was by his own kid brother, who had accepted a dinner 
date to come to Joe's home that night! On his third try, the Clipper set- 
tled everything by hitting the ball into the seats for a home run. There 
was nothing the outfielders could do about that one except watch it sail 
into the stands. That home run made it 45 straight games for Joe, 
eclipsing Keeler's record of 44, which had been set in 1897. From there, 
the Clipper went on to make it 56 games in a row, 

Joe's amazing streak was immortalized in a song that Fall. Written by 
Alan Courtney (words) and Ben Homer (music) it was arranged and 
recorded by bandleader Les Brown and immediately swept the country. 
"Joltin' Joe DiMaggio/' the song was called, and the most easily remem- 
bered refrain went something like this: "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, we want 
you on our side/' 

Everybody in baseball still would like to have Joe on his side. Ball- 
players like the Yankee Clipper are rare indeed. 

Although Joe is an exceptional fielder in his own right, it has been 
Dom who has turned in the fielding performances at his brother's ex- 
pense. For one thing, of course, Joe, being the stronger batter, drives 
more long balls into Dom's territory than Dom does into his. And the 
Little Professor can cover more ground than Joe can now. 

[153 ] 

There are many baseball men who believe the Red Sox might have 
won the 1946 World Series if Dom hadn't injured his leg in the seventh 
game. The youngster doubled off the right field wall In the top half of 
the eighth to tie the game at 3-3, but he pulled up lame at second base 
and had to be relieved by Leon Culberson, who then went to center- 
field at the end of the inning. 

Harry Walker s hit to left center, on which Enos Slaughter made his 
electrifying dash to score all the way from first with the winning ran in 
the eighth, was not a well-hit ball It was scored as a double but it was 
no more than a long single at best. Harry was fooled on the pitch, 
didn't get all the way around on the ball and didn't get the fat part of 
his bat on the ball. 

Culberson didn't come up with the ball as quickly as DiMaggio would 
have, although he did get it to Pesky in time to nail the flying Slaughter 
at the plate if Johnny hadn't hesitated with the relay. And had the ball 
been fielded by Dom instead of Culberson, there would have been no 
relay, for Dom's arm is strong enough and accurate enough to have 
made such a throw directly to the plate. Slaughter told Dom he wouldn't 
have tried for home, if Dom had been playing. 

All the foregoing is, of course, mere supposition and isn't meant to 
detract from the gallant triumph of the Cardinals in that series nor from 
the brilliant run of Slaughter. It is mentioned here only to stress what 
an important part Dom plays in the fortunes of the Red Sox. 

The importance of brother Joe to the fortunes of the Yankees has been 
mentioned so often it is now taken for granted. Admitting the years have 
slowed up the Clipper somewhat, he still retains the relative position in 
the Yankee scheme of things he did before he went into service, when 
the Bombers won six pennants in his first seven seasons with the club. 

Consumed with a burning ambition to erase the so-so season of 1946, 
DiMaggio hustled himself back into the lineup before he really was 
ready in the Spring of 1947. He played for a couple of weeks with his 
left foot in a high shoe to protect it after the Winter operation on his 
heel. Joe broke into the lineup with a three-run homer in Philadelphia 
when the season was less than a week old. 

After that first opening blast, however, it was obvious Joe had re- 
turned too soon. He was hitting, but not in a manner calculated to chase 
pitchers to the storm cellars. Nevertheless, Harris realized DiMag 
wanted to be in the ball game every day, and he had the assurance of 
Dr. Mai Stevens there was no danger of Joe aggravating his post-opera- 
tional troubles. 

Because he had little Spring training, none at all unless you want to 
count a few hours with a carpet slipper at St. Pete, DiMaggio took all 
the batting practice he could. This led to a blow-off with the impetuous 
Yankee president, Larry MacPhail, when one afternoon Joe refused to 

[154 } 

pose for some Army recruiting service pictures. DiMag claimed he 
couldn't spare the time from his hitting drill, and MacPhail slapped a 
fine of $100 on DiMaggio. 

Though it's old stuff by now, the story of that fine and its repercus- 
sions is worth telling because it illustrates the kind of man Joe is. 

There were other Yanks fined too, but none was tagged as heavily as 
the Clipper, It was the first fine he'd been handed in his life* The news 
was announced on May 21. There were scandalized outbursts in the 
press, one sports columnist going so far as to say the fine was DiMag- 
gio's reward for his loyalty to the Yanks. 

In a game at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers that night, before 
67,677 people, DiMaggio came to bat against Hal Newhouser with the 
bases filled and promptly emptied them by lining a double to left. It was 
his answer to MacPhail's fine. 

A couple of nights later, playing against the Red Sox In the Stadium, 
the pregame show consisted of a home run contest for both left- and 
right-handed hitters of the two clubs. Ted Williams, of course, pow- 
dered a few into the right-field stands and won the contest for left- 
handers without any trouble, but none of the right-handers was able to 
hit a ball into the seats in left and the $100 prize was not awarded. 

That, however, was in practice. Came the ball game and the Clipper 
caught hold of one of Joe Dobson's curves with two on, and drove it into 
the left field stands for a home run. He was now in the midst of a bat- 
ting streak, which later lasted through 15 games, and red hot. He also 
was red hot about the fine. MacPhail, in a fine gesture of magnanimity, 
announced that since none of the right-handed batters had hit the ball 
into the seats during practice, and since DiMaggio was the first to do it 
in the game, the $100 would go to the Clipper. When Secretary Red 
Patterson handed Joe the check, Joe handed it back and told him to 
donate it to the Damon Runyon Cancer Relief Fund. 

Never did the Clipper start a season more meekly nor finish one more 
heroically than he did in 1947. He began by hobbling to an airplane to 
take him to Puerto Rico, knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to 
put on a baseball suit for six weeks or any sort of shoe for a month. And 
he ended up in October as one of the heroes of another Yankee World 

The Yanks won the 1947 pennant for Bucky Harris with a drive 
which started in early July, before the All-Star game, and lasted nearly a 
month without defeat. The Yankees won 19 consecutive games in this 
streak and when the streak was ended so, to all intents and purposes, 
was the 1947 American League pennant race. The Yankees were so far 
in front there was no catching them and it was DiMaggio's bat, plus his 
sensational fielding, which wrapped up the flag for them. 

Fielding excellence, however, is something Joe doesn't care to hear too 

f 155] 

much about in connection with the 1947 Series. Although DiMaggio 
made a couple of fine catches himself in the games and hit two tremen- 
dous home runs at Ebhets Field, Joe will remember the '47 Series princi- 
pally for the catch little Al Gionfriddo of the Dodgers made at his ex- 
pense in the sixth game at Yankee Stadium. 

With the Dodgers enjoying a three-run lead in the sixth inning, Di- 
Maggio came up with two on and two out. The Clipper really tied into 
one of Joe Hatten's pitches and sent it whistling toward the visitors' bull 
pen in. left* The tiny Gionfriddo, who had just been sent out there at 
the start of the inning, raced desperately to the barrier. Twice he turned 
in pursuit of the ball, to finally bring it down at the very rim of the 
stands, banging into the bull pen barrier as he made the catch in his 
gloved right hand. 

Anything short of this miraculous effort by Gionfriddo and DiMaggio 
would have had a three-run homer, the Yankees a tie score and very 
probably a World Series victory in six games. As it was, they had to go 
to the seventh game before downing the doughty Dodgers. 

Jim Farley, the former Postmaster General, who in 1940 came closer 
to buying the Yankees than most people realize, wrote a foreword for 
Joe's autobiography in which he emphasized that the rise of the Yankee 
Clipper, and of his brothers, to national prominence was truly a story of 
American life. Farley, a keen sports fan and once member of the New 
York State Athletic Commission, pointed out that the early life of these 
children, of immigrant parents was far from luxurious and that Joe, using 
his baseball skill as a crowbar, was able to raise the status not only of 
himself but of his entire family. 

The DiMaggios came to this country from Palermo, Sicily, in 1902, a 
dozen years before Joe was born. As the children came and the family 
grew, it became difficult to make much headway. As Joe himself frankly 
says, "We had to scratch for what we got/' It's undoubtedly because of 
the hardships of these early days that only the three youngest boys 
turned to baseball. The older ones had no time for play. 

When the Clipper was in his first World Series with the Yankees in 
1936, he brought his mother and his older brother, Tom, from the Coast 
Baseball was pretty intricate stuff for Mama DiMaggio, but she knew 
from the cheers that her son was something special in New York. When 
Tom took her on a tour of the Italian section of the city, and the people 
there discovered she was the mother of Jolting Joe, the attentions show- 
ered upon her must have given her tremendous satisfaction. 

When you look at the rangy, square shouldered Joe, you can sense his 
physical power immediately but Dom is deceptive. He looks small but he 
isn't* The younger DiMag is five feet, nine inches tall, and weighs 175 
pounds. His shoulders are well muscled, his wrists and forearms strong. 
His build, in short, is that of an athlete. 

[ 156] 

While Joe is warily cautious and restrained in his appraisal of Dom's 
baseball ability; Doin pulls no punches when he's talking about his big 
brother. Asked by Al Hirshberg, Boston author, after the war about Joe, 
Dom replied, "If he can come back and play as well as he did before he 
went into service, hell be what I've always considered him the greatest 
outfielder who ever lived!" 

Admitting Dom undoubtedly was swayed by family pride in his esti- 
mate, there are American League ballplayers today who consider Joe the 
greatest outfielder they ever saw. They'll listen politely to your stories of 
Cobb and Speaker and Ruth, but they never saw those stars. They have, 
however, seen Joe, and they'll settle for him. 

Dom still gets a quiet chuckle out of the surprise he handed Joe by 
becoming a big-leaguer. "I remember after my first season in the Coast 
League, when Joe came home for the Winter/* recalled Dom, "He was 
being interviewed over the radio by Ernie Smith, who asked Joe what he 
thought of me playing with the Seals. 

"Joe answered slowly, apparently taking plenty of time to think. He 
wanted to give me the best of it, I guess, and at the same time he wanted 
to be fair. He finally said, Well, with those thick glasses and all, and his 
smallness, I don't think Dom will be a professional ballplayer for long, 
not in the major leagues anyway/ I was home and heard the whole 

Although younger than Joe, Dom has more poise with his public than 
the Clipper. Joe is genuinely embarrassed when autograph seekers gang 
up on him in public places, and as a result he takes most of his meals in 
Shores, where most of the customers know him and where he can dine 
in peace, talking to Eddie Duchin or some other friends. When the auto- 
graph hounds catch up with Dom away from the ball park, he escapes 
molestation by explaining he doesn't get many chances to go out and 
would like to be alone. He finds this works out nicely, and nobody's 
feelings are hurt. 

Because DiMaggio spends his Winters at loose ends around New 
York, the Clipper's name has bobbed up frequently in the Broadway 
columns. This is inevitable, and gives many people the erroneous im- 
pression Joe is a playboy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Al- 
though not a teetotaler, a couple of bottles of beer constitutes a big night 
for DiMag, who, incidentally, has very definite ideas on playboys. 

"You can't be a playboy and a ballplayer at the same time," Joe once 
remarked to me. "And it isn't entirely the sleep that playboys lose which 
harms them. Most of them get to the point where their fun is more im- 
portant to them than baseball. They're playing ball with only half of 
themselves. When they should be bearing down and concentrating on 
the game, they're thinking of what they're going to do afterward." 

Although those who don't know Joe are inclined to look down their 

[ 157] 

noses when they come across his name in a Broadway column, they're 
really doing him an injustice. Except in the offseason, or after a night 
game, the Clipper observes the curfew along with the rest of the ball 

Immediately after his wife remarried, Joe's name was linked romanti- 
cally with not one but several girls by gossip columnists. He made a mild 
beef and was brought up sharply by Dorothy Kilgallen, able daughter of 
a most able newspaperman, Jim Kilgallen. Miss Kilgallen wrote, in 
effect, that if Joe didn't wish his name mentioned in her column or in 
others, all he had to do was stay out of the spotlight and seek dinner 
partners who weren't already known because of stage, screen, or radio 
careers. The Clipper reluctantly admitted Dorothy was right. 

One trait the DiMaggios have in common is the ability to avoid rhu- 
barbs In their baseball. They play it straight. Dom jumped to his feet 
one day two seasons ago at Fenway Park to argue with plate Umpire Jim 
Boyer, and veteran Red Sox chroniclers such as Burt Whitman declared 
it was the first time they could recall Dom getting hot over an umpire's 

When Joe first came up with the Yankees, he had one minor brush in 
Cleveland. The Clipper went Into second to break up a double play and 
Bill Knickerbocker let the ball go right at Joe's noggin. Earle Combs 
coaching at first, Lou Gehrig, who had forced DiMag, and Tony Laz- 
zeri, who had bounced off the bench, all were boiling around the infield. 
The late Lou Kolls, who was umpiring that day, averted a riot by advis- 
ing all within earshot of his voice, which meant everybody In the ball 
park, that: "It costs a C-note per punch in this league." 

Tempers were rather frayed in the 1941 Yankee-Dodger World Series, 
particularly after the third strike episode in the fourth game when 
Mickey Owen let a pitch get away from him and the Yanks won a game 
seemingly not only lost, but over. 

When Whit Wyatt, who won the only Brooklyn victory In the Series, 
walked Joe Gordon in the fifth game, he slammed his glove on the 
mound in protest against Umpire Bill McGowan's decision. Manager 
Leo Durocher bounded off the bench to protest and others joined him 
as a matter of course. When the debate subsided, without McGowan 
having yielded an inch, the irrepressible Lefty Gomez tossed a towel 
from the Yankee bench to signalize that the Dodgers were cry-babies. 

Whatever the Dodgers were, they weren't ones to pass up an argu- 
ment. For the rest of the afternoon, taunts and insults flew from one 
bench to the other. When DiMag came to bat in the fifth, Tommy 
Henrich had just homered to make it 3-1 in favor of the Yankees, The 
Clipper was greeted with the traditional Dodger war cry, a threat 
which made Brooklyn one of the most hated teams In the National 
League that season: "Stick the ball In the bum's ear!" 

[ 158 ] 

Wyatt got a couple uncomfortably close to Joe but the Clipper stood 
up there and drove the next ball to Pete Reiser in deep center. As he was 
jogging back to the Yankee bench, which was on the third base side of 
the infield, Joe said something to Whit. The pitcher started for Joe and 
DiMag signified a willingness to save him some steps and meet him half- 
way. Other players intervened and both clubs calmed down after that. 
When the game, and the Series, was over, Wyatt was one of the few 
Dodgers who came personally to the Yankee clubhouse to congratulate 
the winners, and he and Joe shook hands. 

DiMaggio's reputation has been growing steadily, as has his popular- 
ity with the fans, A couple of years ago Ted Williams had a bulge on 
DiMag, but the pendulum now seems to have swung the other way, 

John C. Hoffman of the Chicago Times took some friends on a tour 
of the Yankee clubhouse when the White Sox were playing in New 
York. Although the game had been finished for more than an hour and 
ballplayers, next to firemen, are the most notoriously rapid dressers in 
the world, DiMag was still seated in the Yankee clubhouse reading a 

Hoffman couldn't believe it, unless Joe was a victim of the housing 
shortage and lived in the Stadium. It was explained to the visiting 
writer that the Clipper didn't dare leave the ball park until the mob out- 
side had disappeared or at least dwindled. Joe once went through the 
mob and came out with an expensive sports coat in rags and his shirt in 

DiMag doesn't fool all the fans by lingering in the clubhouse for an 
hour or an hour and a half after the game. He does, however, outlast 
many of them, which makes the running of the gauntlet to his car less 
hazardous. Once a 12-year-old kid clung to the fender as the car was 
started and Joe had to stop for fear the boy might be killed. 

At one time Joe and Jimmy Ceres sought to circumvent the fans by 
driving the car into the park but the attendants squawked because they 
wanted to lock the gates and go home. 

DiMaggio is enough of a realist to know this hero worship is the price 
he pays for stardom. When he's washed up as a ballplayer, there'll be no 
milling crowds seeking his autograph, or attempting to rip a shred from 
his garments to paste in their memory books. He accepts the conditions, 
but can't help wishing that he could take a quiet stroll without having 
somebody call for the police reserves. 

Joe so far hasn't attempted to cash in on his popularity around New 
York. His restaurant venture in San Francisco was a success, even 
though the Clipper wasn't on the premises a great deal. There were 
persistent reports a while back that DiMaggio planned opening a New 
York restaurant in partnership with Toots Shor. Joe undoubtedly would 
like to set up another source of income to supplement his baseball, and 

i59 ] 

to do so while his star is still on the rise, tut I have a hunch that^when 
Joe sold his interests in his San Francisco restaurant, he was bidding 
farewell to the catering business for all time. 

Another hunch which persists with me is that Joe doesn't wish to grow 
old in baseball He has never said so but from my association with him, 
I don't think DiMag ever wishes to reach the point where a manager 
will be forced to bench him for a younger player. 

Only those who are close to Joe know the intense pride he takes in 
his work. Until the 1946 season, DiMag never knew what it was to have 
a bad year in baseball In his three years with the Seals, Joe hit all the 
way from .340 to .398 and he had never hit under .300 with the Yanks, 
his average for his first seven years being .339- Thlls && Clipper's .290 
batting average and his 25 home runs for 1946 were pretty small potatoes 

for him. _ A 

It was apparent to Yankee fans, and to Bucky Harris, as early as Au- 
oust of 1948 that if the Bombers were to repeat their success of the pre- 
vious year, it would have to be a one-man job. And the one man, of 
course, was DiMaggio. At that, the Yanks almost made the ride to glory 
on the coat-tails of the Clipper. It is doubtful if Joe ever had a greater 
inspirational effect upon his fellow players than he did in '48. 

DiMaggio, then approaching his 34th birthday, ran the bases as he 
never had before. He led the league in home runs and he was first in the 
important runs-tatted-in category. 

Two of DiMaggio's greatest thrills in that season came in Fenway 
Park, under the eye of his old boss, Joe McCarthy, who had returned 
to the baseball wars to pilot the Red Sox. One was on September 10, 
when it seemed the Yanks were about to slide out of the pennant race. 
They had been belted to a f are-thee-well in two previous games in Bos- 
ton by the Sox. 

That game, the third of the series, came just before the Yanks were 
scheduled to head into the West for their final swing through the bad- 
lands. With the score tied in the roth and the bases filled, DiMaggio 
came up and belted one into the center-field bleachers, a 4oooot drive 
which was still climbing when it disappeared from view. 

It was a shot in the arm to the Yankees, such a shot that it kept them 
in the running until the day before the season ended. In the finale, 
DiMaggio, playing on his one good foot, made four hits in Boston in a 
losing cause as the Sox went on to win and tie Cleveland for the 

After the limping DiMaggio got his fourth straight hit, Manager 
Harris, with a fine sense of the dramatic, lifted Joe for a pinch-hitter. 
As he hobbled to the dugout, DiMag received an ovation from the Fen- 
way Park throng which rarely has fallen to the lot of a rival ballplayer 
in any city. 

f *60 ] 

It was In 1948, too, that the Yankee Stadium fans took Joe unto their 
"bosoms as they never had before. They had always admired and re- 
spected him for the great player he is, but DiMag's efforts to keep the 
faltering team in one piece were so evident as to be apparent to even the 
most casual of fans. In none of the pennant-winning years was DiMag- 
gio as popular in the Bronx as he was in 1948. 

The Clipper likes to recall a conversation he had with his buddy Lefty 
Gomez in one of his early years with the Yankees. "Guys are always 
coming up to me and asking me where I get my power," remarked Joe 
somewhat querulously. 

"Listen, Joe," advised Lefty, "that's no cause for complaint. The time 
to get worried is when guys come up to you and ask you where your 
power went!" 

DiMaggio's shyness in public is not an act He was on the CBS sports 
program with Red Barber one evening and was literally shaking with 
relief when it was over. "I always get nervous looking at a microphone/' 
explained Joe. 

It is inevitable in any discussion of a star ballplayer that his manage- 
rial talents be assayed. Almost everybody who ever played ball has had a 
yen to become a manager and I don't suppose Joe is any exception, al- 
though he always shunts such talk aside by saying it is too early to think 
about that now. Ballplayers think the Clipper would make a good mana- 
ger. His judgment is instinctively good, just as Babe Ruth's was, and the 
respect in which he is held by teammates, opposing players, and umpires, 
indicates Joe would be able to deal with his personnel. As the Clipper 
says, it may be too early to talk of his prospects of ever managing in the 
majors, but the possibilities are intriguing. 

"Joe DiMaggio is one of the finest fellows that ever came into base- 
ball," Joe Cronin has commented. "He's the natural leader you're always 
looking for and seldom finding. He's got that perfect temperament, a 
competitor who drags others along with him, a man who stands up in 
defeat and shakes it off. And more than that, he inspires in all the others 
around him a respect for victory; he shows them the pleasure and enjoy- 
ment of winning," 

This isn't a trial balloon for Joe's managerial ambitions, because he 
hasn't any. As any American League pitcher will tell you, a guy who 
can hit like Jolting Joe needn't worry about who does the managing, 
either of his own team or of the opposition. There is no strategic maneu- 
ver to compare with a line drive hit between the outfielders. 

As Jim Farley remarked, the rise of the DiMaggio clan in baseball is 
truly an American saga. The DiMaggios can thank baseball for what it 
has brought them and baseball can thank the DiMaggios for what they 
have brought to the game. 

Hey, DiMag! 



The Truth About 


By Ed mtzgerald 

WHEN Cornelius McGillicuddy kicked and squalled his way 
into this life on December 23, 1862, in East Brookfield, Massa- 
chusetts, the men of the town were busy making shoes for the 
Union armies locked in a death struggle with the Confederate States of 

Which pretty well indicates that the tall, courtly gentleman with the 
high, starched collar who runs the Philadelphia Athletics in the twin 
capacities of president and manager is no pink-cheeked upstart. But if 
you need further proof of his age, consider the fact that Connie was 
already 42 years old when his Athletics met the New York Giants in the 
first official World Series in 1905, 

In 1905, the President of the United States got a telegram from Nich- 
olas, Czar of all the Russias, thanking him for his help in bringing about 
the end of the Russo-Japanese War, That was President Roosevelt- 
Theodore, not Franklin D. 

In 1905, John Drew, Maxine Elliott, and Lew Fields were the big 
stars on Broadway, where the hit show was a tearjerker called "Way 
Down East/' Derby hats were selling for two dollars, and you could rent 
a four-room apartment in the best part of any town in America for $19 
a month. John Philip Sousa and his brass band were playing at the New 
York Hippodrome, and the Pope-Waverly Electric Automobile people 
were trying to convince everybody that the gasoline buggy was uneco- 
nomical and unsafe and probably wouldn't last. 

You could get four percent interest on your money at the toughest 
bank in America, and lots of places were offering five and six. A new 
Cadillac runabout cost $750, and a lady could buy a Fall outfit for $4.80, 
Made-to-order men's suits, for the discriminating gentleman, cost a 
whopping $10. But you get the idea, It wasn't yesterday, nor even the 
day before, 

In other words, the elongated patriarch of the Athletics has been doing 
business at the same old stand for a long time, But most American base- 

f 152] 

ball fans know that. What they don't know is what kind of man he 
really is. More specifically, they're puzzled by the seeming inconsisten- 
cies in Mack's makeup. They know he won a flock of pennants in his 
time, and a neat bundle of world championships, too* But they can't 
figure out why he has been satisfied to operate in the murky depths of 
last place so often, and why he deliberately tore apart his greatest teams, 

In short, what they most want to know is this: is Connie Mack the 
noble sportsman of baseball legend, or is he a cold-blooded businessman 
interested only in his private collection of IL S. currency? 

The answer can't be thrown out swiftly, YouVe got to dig into the 
fabulous career of the man, into the workings of his mind and the reali- 
ties of his past performances. YouVe got to balance one thing against 
another, study his motives and his results, then add it all up to your 
own satisfaction. 

Obviously, the place to begin such a chore is in Philadelphia, for 
Philadelphia is more than the home of Independence Hall, the Liberty 
Bell, and scrapple* It's also Connie Mack's town. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad has a station in North Philadelphia, and 
when you walk outside to the street you're only five minutes by taxi 
from Shibe Park, the home of the A's and the personal domain of 
Connie Mack. You get a cab by waiting in line on the sidewalk outside 
the station, and if you're interested in baseball you probably talk about 
it to the guy behind the wheel 

"You go to see the A's much"?" I asked my jockey. 

He laughed. "Once in a while," he said. "Can't afford it too often, for 
one thing. But even if I could, I don't think I'd go much. Hell, you get 
tired watching those guys take It in the neck." The cab skidded skillfully 
around a corner, and I could see the floodlights of the ball park sticking 
up above the wall of the stadium like the filaments of a spider web. 

"But the A's finished fourth last year, didn't they?" 

The cabbie spit out an impolite word. "So what?" he demanded, cyni- 
cally. 'They'll be back in the cellar next year. What the hell have they 
got to build on? Most of them ain't gettin' any younger* Eddie Joost was 
the big difference at short, the guy who made the club, and I don't have 
to tell you Joost ain't no recruit How much longer is Sam Chapman 
gonna last? Sure, they got that McCahan kid to pitch and he looks good, 
and the kid on first, that Fain, he's okay, too. But it don't look like an 
improving ball club to me, and I don't see the old boy spreadin* any of 
his cabbage around to get the big hitters he needs if he's gonna win. I 
think he figures he's makin' money now, so why worry?" 

With a flourish, he swept up to the side door of Shibe Park, the door 
with the sign "Employees" over it, pushed down the flag on die meter, 
and held out his hand, "You owe me 85 cents," he announced. Gestur- 
ing toward the door, he grinned. "If you see the old boy," he told me, 


"give him my regards and tell him I said he oughta take the rubber band 
off his bankroll/* 

You can spend weeks digging Into the spectacular career of this man 
Mack. You can talk to dozens of people about him, and read all kinds of 
reference material on him, but when you get all through you still find 
yourself stuck with that one question. What the fan wants to know is, 
why doesn't he break down and spend a little money on his ball club if 
he seriously wants another pennant winner? They think it's wonderful 
that he could assemble a fine pitching staff without straining the club 
treasury, but if he really wants to win, doesn't he know he's going to 
have to buy hitters? 

That's what I was thinking as I crossed the sidewalk and greeted the 
man at the open door. He wore an old Philadelphia warmup jacket, no 
hat, and a tired expression. <r Who you looking for?" he asked, 

Tve got an appointment with Connie Mack," I told him. 

He motioned toward a concrete ramp. "Go up to the grandstand and 
walk up the stairs half a flight Mister Mack's office is between the 
grandstand and the upper stand." 

When I reached the grandstand level, I had to stop and look. No 
matter how many times you go into a big ball park, it's always a 
pleasant shock to walk out of the barren concrete runways and ramps 
into the daylight and see the expanse of green grass in front of you. And 
an empty stadium can be just as exciting as a full one. 

You stand there in the deserted arena, and you ignore the reality of 
what you see. You fill in the empty seats automatically, and you remem- 
ber how that sullen genius, Lefty Grove, used to send his shrieking 
speedball into home plate from that vacant pitcher's mound. Your mind 
revives the image of brawny Jimmy Foxx waving his menacing bat at 
enemy pitchers. You remember the way the Philadelphia fans groaned 
as they saw the promising rookie, Al Simmons, swing gracelessly with 
his foot in the bucket, and you remember how they lifted off the roof 
with their cheers as year in and year out that marvelous slugger slammed 
the ball into the left-field stands. You don't know, because you weren't 
around then, but you find yourself wondering how the customers of an- 
other generation felt as they sat in these seats and watched the defensive 
magic of the $100,000 infield, with Stuffy Mclnnis, Eddie Collins, Jack 
Barry, and Home Run Baker pulling off their daily miracles on the dirt 
and the short grass. 

Even when you walk down the narrow catwalk that leads to Connie 
Mack's office, you can't shake off the ghosts you see before your eyes. 
How many heroes of yesterday's box-scores walked here? How many of 
them knocked on this door you're knocking on now? 

But you can't let yourself dwell on the past too much. On a mission 
like this, the past can be your biggest trap. It's the present you're inter- 


ested in. You want to find out what kind of future Connie Mack has 
been planning for himself and the people who pay their hard-earned 
money to see his Athletics play baseball. 

You get all your thoughts pretty well collected, with the wraiths of 
other days firmly shoved into the back of your mind. Then the door 
opens and six-foot, four-inch Connie Mack stands there with his clear 
blue eyes fastened on you. YouVe worked yourself up to a tough-minded, 
businesslike pitch. You're ready with a stream of hot questions, and you 
want logical answers. So what do you say? 

Ill tell you exactly what you say. You stare at this spare, angular man, 
at his magnificent features which look as though they're etched in old 
parchment, and you say: "How do you do, Mister Mack?" 

Not, "How are you, Connie?" Or, 'Well, so you're Connie Mack!" 
Nor even a breezy "I've always wanted to meet Connie Mack!" You say 
none of these. When you look at this giant of baseball folklore, you say, 
"Mister Mack," and you mean it, because the dignity of the man com- 
mands your instant respect. 

But if you're afraid you're in for a chilly, formal interview, you change 
your mind in a hurry. Connie Mack has been a public idol in this coun- 
try for over half a century, but he's the son of an Irishman named Mike 
McGillicuddy and there's a twinkle in his eye and a warmth in his man- 
ner that's Celtic through and through. You know he's a big shot because 
you know what he's accomplished since he left East Brookfield. But you 
don't find it out from Connie Mack. 

He shook hands, closed the door, and walked behind his desk to the 
big leather chair that's his workshop. He sat up straight, his 86 years 
carried lightly on his frail shoulders, and there was an unmistakable 
alertness in his manner that immediately answered one of my principal 
questions. There is nothing senile about Connie Mack. In the language 
of the bleacher fan, he's right on the ball. 

Connie wore a plain dark business suit of modem cut, a quiet neck- 
tie, and a gleaming white shirt. His collar, of course, was the tall, stiff, 
white anachronism that is part of the Mack legend. You wonder as you 
look at him if it doesn't cut into his slender neck. Anyway, you know 
you'd hate to be wearing it. 

He weighed only j 50 pounds when he was an active catcher, and he 
must weigh a lot less now. His body is thin, and his face is thinner. He's 
got plenty of hair, even though it's as gray as it could get. And he has 
long, delicate fingers, amazingly straight for the fingers of an old-tiine 
catcher. He looks like a man whose native dignity would make any 
painter worth his salt itch to get at his easel and brush. 

There was nothing close-mouthed or formal about the sage of Phila- 
delphia when he began to speak His speech wasn't the language of the 
dugout, either. He talked easily and intelligently, spicing his remarks 


with the wry humor for which he is famous, I explained to him that I 
was more interested in his personal habits and opinions than I was in the 
chronological story of his baseball career, and he nodded understand- 

"You ask the questions/' he said, "and well see if we can go along 
with them/' He must have felt he could go along with them, because he 
didn't refuse to answer a single one. 

Asking the questions isn't too easy. You feel kind of funny sitting 
there across from a distinguished citizen almost three times as old as you 
are, flinging pointed inquiries at him. You almost expect him to tell you 
it's none of your business and why don't you go jump in the lake. But 
Connie Mack doesn't operate that way. 

I didn't want to come right out with it, but I kept trying to get the old 
gentleman to tell me his side of the 'pennant-wrecking" story. That is, 
the story that Connie deliberately junked his two finest championship 
teams in order to fill his treasury, ignoring the fact that he was robbing 
his faithful fans of their money's worth. 

You can imagine how much my respect for him rose when he faced 
the issue squarely. Connie has a wonderful sense of humor, and he has 
a gentle, patient outlook on life that keeps him from resenting the most 
barbed questions. 

"I didn't sell those players for profit," he said. "I sold them because in 
both cases (meaning the 1914 and 1930 teams) I foresaw the crackup of 
the clubs. I knew it was time to rebuild." 

That's his story, and he sticks to it. Is it the whole truth? Well, that's 
hard to say. The best way to decide is to plunge right into the man's 
history, dig into his personality, weigh the plus factors against the minus 
quantities, and arrive at an honest conclusion. You've got to have all the 
facts before you can hand down a just verdict. 

Everybody's curious about how the old man stands the pace of his 
busy life. The way he tells it, he stands it by taking good care of him- 
self, and by keeping up a profound interest in his work. 

During the baseball season, Connie gets up at eight o'clock every 
morning. Before sitting down to his breakfast, he takes half an hour to 
bathe, shave, and dress. He generally leaves for the office at about nine 
o'clock. Connie doesn't have a car or a chauffeur of his own, but the 
man who runs the concessions at Shibe Park stops by for him. 

He carries his lunch with him, so he doesn't have to make the trip 
back home until the ball game is over. Before the game, he corks off for 
a siesta in the office. If the A's are playing a night game, he leaves the 
park early in the afternoon and goes home for a long snooze before game- 
time. Connie doesn't kid himself into thinking he's discovered a 2oth 
Century Fountain of Youth. He knows he needs lots of rest in order to 
keep going, so he takes it without making any fuss. 


Despite the fact that night games represent the greatest single drain 
on his strength, because of the irregular hours and the chilly weather, 
it's hardly a secret to baseball fans that Mack is a strong supporter of 
night baseball. For obvious reasons. 

* We don't draw too well in the daytime," he says, "except when the 
New York and Boston clubs come here. And even Boston doesn't always 
draw especially well. The Yankees, of course, always pull a crowd. But 
we draw very well at night, no matter which club we're playing," 

Connie frankly admits he takes things a lot easier these days. "As the 
years roll around, I don't watch practice as much as I once did,'* he says. 
"Naturally, I'm not able to do as much as I did before, and I find there 
is plenty of work for me right here in the office. I'm satisfied that I have 

gx>d coaches in my son, Earle, Al Simmons, Earle Bracker, and Jimmy 

Connie used to handle the pitchers himself, but now that he's got 
Brucker, he has let that task pass out of his hands. It's easy to see that 
this 86-year-old wonder doesn't waste any time feeling sorry for himself. 
Sure, he'd like to be out there on the field belting fungo flies to the out- 
fielders. He'd like to be working with all the young pitchers and drilling 
the ambitious hitters. But he can't do everything, so he satisfies himself 
with the myriad duties of the club presidency, and becomes an active 
manager only at game-time. 

Next to Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Philadelphia 
stringbean is probably the most famous teetotaler in baseball. Connie 
doesn't touch anything alcoholic. "I never liked it much/' he'll tell you, 

"I have a lot of will power," he told me. "I feel I have, at least, because 
I've done things that would warrant my saying that. When I say I will 
or won't do something, I generally do it." 

Mack has a small circle of friends in Philadelphia, whom he goes to 
see in his spare time, but the circle is getting smaller every year. 'There 
used to be about 20 couples who got around to see each other a lot," he 
said. "But either the man or the wife has passed away in most instances, 
and now I guess it's down to two or three couples. So Mrs. Mack and I 
don't go out too much." 

You couldn't miss the loneliness in his voice as he talked about the 
friends who had gone. It must be a sad thing to see old acquaintances 
pass out of your life in a steady stream, and to realize that the world you 
knew isn't the same any more. But you get a clue to the peace Connie 
has made with the world when you see the way his steady eyes sparlde 
again as he changes the subject to a baseball topic. Connie Mack loves 
baseball best of all. 

Connie fathered eight children, five girls and three boys, in two mar- 
riages. His first wife was Margaret Hogan, who died in 1892. Two boys, 

[ 167 ] 

Earle and Roy, and a daughter, Margaret, were her children. He mar- 
ried his present wife, the former Katherine Halloran, on October 27, 
1910, and they have had five children. His oldest daughter, Margaret, 
died several years ago, but all the other children are living. 

Is his wife a baseball fan? Not especially, says Connie. "It takes too 
much out of her. She likes the night games, though, and generally comes 
to all of them." 

Connie and his wife sold their big house in the Mt Airy section of 
Philadelphia a few years ago, and now they live in a spacious apartment 
in the same district of the sprawling city. Their apartment house is in a 
nice neighborhood, but nothing pretentious. 

Connie is not the sole owner of the Athletics. The heirs of Ben F. 
Shibe, the major stockholder in the original club, are his partners. How- 
ever, Connie did buy enough stock to gain majority control "back in 
1940, when he was 77. The club is very much a family affair including 
both, the Macks and Shibes as one big family. Few jobs of any conse- 
quence are held by outsiders. 

"Mr. Shibe believed in being equal partners/' Connie told me. ""And 
though my sons and I bought a controlling interest, we don't take ad- 
vantage of it." 

I asked him if he attended all the Athletics' games, and he looked a 
little surprised, as though that was a silly question. He picked up a ruler 
from the glistening mahogany top of his desk, a desk that reflected the 
neatness of its owner, and talked quiedy. 

"Yes, Fm at every game/' he said, "both at home and away/* 

Getting up out of his chair, he took me on a Cook's Tour of the office, 
pointing out the significance of the pictures, souvenirs, and assorted 
memorabilia. It seemed to give him genuine pleasure to pick up each 
article, examine it carefully, and tell me who gave it to him, and why. 
He told me the office used to be a mass of pictures from the ceiling to 
the floor. "But I came back from a Western trip a few years ago, and 
they'd cleaned it all up. John Shibe did it. What he did with the pic- 
tures, I don't know. I think my son Roy has a lot of them," 

How does he feel about the support his team has received from the 
people of Philadelphia and the surrounding countryside? 

Connie spoke with deep conviction on that subject. "Oh, now, I want 
to tell you/' he said in a low voice, "It's just wonderful. When I look 
back and see the many bad clubs I've given Philadelphia, and how they 
were supported by these people, it makes me feel humble." 

That led him into another street *Tou know/' he said thoughtfully, 
4f l am considered by a lot of people to be rich. But I haven't got a lot of 
money. When I pass away, they'll wonder where I tuned all the money. 
But I am very well satisfied. I have had a good living out of the game, 
and the people of Philadelphia have been very loyal to me. 

f 168 ] 

"I'm very happy here. Wherever I go in the city, I am known, and 
the people treat me splendidly. Last night I went to the opening of a 
new bowling establishment, and it was wonderful how much they made 
of me/' 

Of course, all is not ice cream and cake for Mack. He has his troubles, 
just like ordinary men. Like the troubles of ordinary men, some of them 
are domestic and some are of a business nature, 

His major domestic disturbance reached the boiling point in the Sum- 
mer of 1946. It was an explosion that rocked the entire Mack family. 

Connie's wife, then 70 years old, told newspaper reporters on April 
22, 1946, that she and her husband had separated. She readily admitted 
the reason for the separation was Connie's distribution of more than half 
his stock in the Philadelphia ball club among three of his children 
Earle, Roy, and Connie, Jr. 

"I learned about the transfer of the stock in October," she said. "I 
went to St. Petersburg in December and asked him about it. He said it 
would all be straightened out in two or three years. But he's 83, and life 
is too uncertain to anticipate what may happen in the next two or three 

"I returned here (to Philadelphia) the first of January, and later he 
sent word that he was not returning, and that he was sending for his 
clothes. He did so, and went to the Mayfair House." (A hotel in sub- 
urban Germantown.) 

At the time Mrs. Mack gave that interview to the press, she and 
Connie were living very much apart. When the reporters caught up 
with Connie, to get his side of the dispute, the old gentleman was in 
New York with the A's for an early-season series, and he didn't take 
kindly to the questioning. 

'Things will be straightened out in a short time," he insisted. "I have 
no comment to make. This is a personal matter and I hope people will 
regard it as private and keep out of it." 

Asked if there was any chance of a reconciliation, Mrs. Mack told the 
news hounds sharply, "Not with me. I don't know how long 111 stand 
up, but I'm on my own." 

Later, Mrs. Mack told reporters, "The point is, there are nine persons 
to be considered in this his eight children and me. And it didn't sound 
very good when he gave more than half the stock to three of them." 

When they were spreading the story of the intra-family struggle across 
their pages, the Philadelphia newspapers recalled that in 1928 Connie 
created a trust fund for his wife and three oldest children, but revoked 
it a little more than a year later. The trust comprised 747 shares of club 
stock, which reverted to Mack upon the revocation of the trust. 

During the fuss about his separation from Mrs. Mack, Connie came 
as close to severing diplomatic relations with the gentlemen of the press 

f i69 ] 

as he ever has. He hung up on people who asked him about the matter 
over the telephone, and he was visibly annoyed whenever any outsider 
displayed any curiosity about the matter, 

"All I can say/' he stated one day, "is that Mrs. McGillicuddy and I 
have been married for 35 years, and that in that time I have never 
spoken a harsh word to her. It would be so much better if people would 
just attend to their own business." 

The family fight was settled after the Macks had been separated for 
about six months. They had a family dinner party on October 22, 1946, 
to celebrate the healing of the breach. Mrs. Mack was quoted by the 
papers as being 'Very happy." Connie said brusquely he "didn't care 
to discuss the matter at all." 

Connie's other recent difficulties are more pressing. The rawboned, 
softspoken New England Irishman who master-minded the Athletics 
to nine American League pennants and five world championships today 
finds himself confronted by an array of implacable critics who threaten 
to make his old age miserable. 

The wolves have been howling for his scalp more loudly, and more 
persistently, than ever before. The noise was abated somewhat by the 
surprisingly strong fight the A's waged in 1948, but even Connie knows 
the quiet spell won't survive the first sign of a collapse on the part of 
his team. 

Like the taxicab driver who complained to me that Mack wouldn't 
spend money to improve his club, the sportswriters and fans who wish 
he'd step down base their desire for a change on one contention. That 
is simply that a new owner might be less concerned with making money 
and more concerned with building a better team. 

"We're trying as hard as we can to build up to a pennant," says 
Mack. <f We don't have the team for it now, I don't think. This club is 
great on the defense, but light-hitting. If we could have hit better last 
Summer, there's no telling how far we could have gone." 

Connie expects some of the younger pitchers on his staff, notably 
Joe Coleman, to improve. He thinks Bill McCahan (who flung a 3-0 
no-hitter against the Senators in 1947) will bounce back from his in- 
different '48 performance with a bang. 

The old master is high on southpaw Lou Brissie, the Purple Heart 
war veteran. "I look for him to be a real great pitcher some day," says 
Connie, who dearly loves southpaws. And why not? He can't forget 
what Lefty Grove did for him. 

Connie claims he has his own reasons for not buying a lot of Grade 
A minor-league prospects. "Except in very rare instances," he says, 
"players of the higher class minor leagues do not appeal to me, because 
I have my own ideas of how to develop players." 

His critics say this is a lot of hogwash. "Good minor-leaguers," they 

point out, "cost a bundle of money. That's the only objection Mack has 
to them." 

They call your attention to the fact that Connie was delighted to 
acquire the brilliant young Ferris Fain in '47, and made no mention of 
any unhappiness in being forced to take on a player developed by some- 
one else. "That," theyll tell you y "is because Mack was able to draft Fain 
from the San Francisco club of the Pacific Coast League for only a 
lousy $10,000." 

Yet Mack doesn't seem to take the anguished cries of his detractors too 
seriously. No doubt he finds the Shibe Park attendance figures for 1948 
comforting. He must say to himself, as he sits behind his desk and taps 
a pencil thoughtfully against his metallic collar, that his critics must 
be noisier than they are numerous. Otherwise, he probably wonders, how 
can you explain the golden harvest of good American dollars at the 

Do people who hold you In contempt pay their hard-earned money 
to see your bad team play, thus lining your pockets with gold and at 
the same time tacitly encouraging your policies? The answer would 
seem to be no. 

The conclusion drawn by the old man, and by many a canny base- 
ball executive, is that Philadelphia from Germantown to Chestnut Hill 
to the factory sections of the town is still squarely in Connie Mack's 
corner, rooting for the agile old gentleman to pull a rabbit out of his 
hat once more. 

Still, there's no getting away from the fact that Connie has a man- 
sized problem on his hands. He can't afford to overlook the fact that a 
whole generation of baseball fans has grown up in Philadelphia without 
ever knowing the A's to fly an American League pennant from their 
flagpole. That's no way to train future customers. 

This new generation respects Connie for his heroic position in the 
history of baseball, respects him for the genius which brought so many 
championships to Philadelphia. But it is emphatically not willing to get 
all its baseball thrills out of dusty record books. These young people 
want to see pennants being won today, not listen to stories of pennants 
that were won in the long, long ago. 

Even the 1948 spurt to the rarefied heights of fourth place has failed 
to pacify these rebels. They laugh about it, ridicule the team that at- 
tained so lofty an honor, and freely predict the Athletics will collapse 
on schedule in the future unless their uncertain attack is bolstered by 
some genuine sluggers* 

Milton Gross, a baseball writer for the New York Post, wrote a story 
in 1946 in which he claimed that the fans in Philadelphia were finally 
turning against 'The Grand Old Man of Baseball.'' Reporting that the 
fans are demanding Mack step aside in favor of "an enlightened, live- 


wire, free-spending ownership," Gross wrote sadly that Connie's "halo 
is showing/' 

There's not much question, however, that nothing annoys Mack quite 
as much as the recurrent rumors of his retirement As sure as the snows 
of the Winter melt on Market Street in mid-Philadelphia, the coming 
of the Spring brings with it every year a new hint that the old man is 
getting ready to pull out. Connie has been known to get highly emotional 
when denying these annual rumors. 

In the very fact that he doesn't want to retire may lie the greatest 
hope for the future of Philadelphia baseball. Because he wants to stay 
on the job, Connie may well redouble his efforts to put some vinegar 
into the A's. It cannot possibly be a source of any satisfaction to this 
marvelous character to know that a lot of people wish he'd quit the 
office in Shibe Park Tower where he has hung his hat and stretched 
his long legs these many, many years. Connie must want desperately 
to end his amazing career on a note of triumph. 

The baseball saga of Connie Mack had its beginnings in his home 
town of East Brookfield in Massachusetts. Connie had taken a job in 
one of the local shoe factories when he was 16, and by the time he was 
20 he had become a foreman. In his spare time, he played semi-pro 
ball for the town entry in the Central Massachusetts League, serving 
as the catcher and "taking my share of whatever was dropped in the 

In 1884, when he was 21, Connie was offered $90 a month to play 
professionally for the Meriden club of the Connecticut League. He 
wanted badly to accept the bid, but he worried plenty about throwing 
up a good job to cast his lot with a sport that was beneath the notice 
of decent society. 

Looking back at it now, Mack says, "Baseball was mighty glamorous 
and exciting to me but there is no use in blinking at the fact that at that 
time the game was thought by solid, respectable people to be only one 
degree above grand larceny, arson, and mayhem/' 

So Connie thought twice about the Meriden offer then accepted 
it. A love of the game was in his blood even then, and he knew he 
wouldn't be happy if he turned down a chance to make it his profession. 
The money certainly was satisfactory. In those days, $90 a month was 
a whopping sum for a young ballplayer. Connie is fond of saying, "I 
would have played for half that/' And he adds, "I was afraid to let the 
other boys on the club know what a plutocrat I was/' 

It's interesting to learn that in these formative days of his youth 
Connie was no holier-than-thou youngster. Although he is famous for 
not drinking and not swearing, he was perfectly normal in that he ex- 
perimented with both. He just didn't like them, that's all, so they have 
played no part in his life. 


Connie was a talkative catcher. Never mean or profane in his com- 
ments, he did toss out a running fire of comment designed to upset the 
batters. He played under the name of Mack, but he disputes the old 
story that his name was shortened by scorekeepers who couldn't fit 
McGillicuddy into their books. He says his family always went by the 
name of Mack, using the full name only on official papers. 

Hartford, in the South New England League, was Connie's next 
port of call He took a job there in 1885 at a salary of $125 a month. 
This was real money, and the people in East Brookfield saw Connie 
blossom out in good clothes and shiny derby hats. He was coming up 
in the world. 

Connie soon gained a measure of fame as one-half the so-called "Hart- 
ford Battery" of Frank Gilmore and Connie Mack. He was doing all 
right in company with Frank Gilmore, a pitcher who was built along 
the same scarecrow lines as Mack. In 1886, when Hartford became a 
member of the old Eastern League, Connie's take was $200 a month 
and in those days that was big money. He hit only .248 in 69 games 
that season, but he impressed his employers with his all-around hustle 
and skill. 

Walter F. Hewitt, the owner of the Washington club in the National 
League, became interested in some of the Hartford players during the '86 
campaign, particulary the stringbean pitcher, Gilmore. He opened nego- 
tiations with the Hartford management to buy the players he wanted, 
and when he finished dickering he owned five of the Hartford stars. The 
whole transaction cost Hewitt a mere $3,500. 

For years, the story has been passed around that Washington wanted 
Frank Gilmore, but didn't want Mack, and that Gilmore refused to 
report to the major-league club unless Connie was included in the deal. 

'That's absolutely wrong," Connie told me. "It was the catcher they 
wanted. I've seen it so many times I wish you would correct it. If Frank 
Gilmore were alive, he'd tell you he wouldn't even have been an or- 
dinary pitcher without me/' 

With a pardonable touch of pride, Mack added, 'When I signed 
with the Washington club I was probably getting more money than 
any of the men on the Chicago club, which had the reputation of pos- 
sessing more star players than any other team in baseball at the time/' 

Remembering with a guilty conscience the sum he squeezed out of 
that old-time ball club's treasury, Connie said: "The Washington man- 
ager came to my home in East Brookfield once, and asked me to volun- 
tarily reduce my salary. I refused. I knew my salary was a terrific drain 
on them, but I was no different from any other ballplayer. I wanted 
all I could get" He was already planning his marriage to Margaret 
Hogan and probably figured he needed it. 

Connie finished up the 1886 season with Washington, and hit a 


lusty .361 in 10 big-league games. Tall and courteous, he was an expert 
bat-tipper when his pitcher was in the hole. He'd reach out with his 
gloved hand just as the batter began his swing, and deflect the bat. It 
was slightly illegal, of course, but highly effective. 

Telling about his adventures in bat-tipping, Connie leaned back in 
his big chair and laughed. 'The only player who ever got back at me 
for helping him hit the ball was Buck Weaver/' he reminisced. "One 
day Buck got mad at me and smacked me right across the wrists with 
his bat" 

In those days, the batter was allowed to tell the pitcher what kind 
of ball he wanted thrown to him, and Connie freely admits that was 
a big help to him. Mack liked high ones, and he always managed to 
do all right belting those fat pitches. After the rules were changed to 
allow the pitcher to throw the ball anywhere he chose in the strike 
zone, between the shoulders and the knees, things weren't so good for 
a lot of the boys. "1 couldn't hit for sour apples then/' Connie confessed 
with a grin. 

Naturally, the pitchers knew all the balls the old-timers couldn't hit, 
because for years the batters had been inadvertently revealing their 
weaknesses by calling for the kind of balls they could hit 

Recalling what little regard other folks had for ballplayers in that 
period, Connie said, "We couldn't get into a first-class hotel. In fact, 
they wouldn't take us in a second-class hotel. But they would take us 
in a third-class hotel, if we promised not to mingle with the other 

Baseball was a tough game in those days and it was tougher on the 
catcher than anyone else, with the possible exception of the umpire. 
Stopping those stinging pitches with no protection but a regular finger 
glove (with the fingers cut short) on his left hand, the catcher generally 
wound up with a paw that looked like an uncooked steak. 

Recalling his own troubles in that department, Connie says, "My 
own fingers would not have exactly qualified for a beauty show. My 
fingers seemed to go off in odd directions from one another on private 
errands of their own." 

In 1890, most of the top National League players seceded from the 
circuit to play in the new Players League formed by the Baseball 
Brotherhood, the first baseball union. Connie, the arch-conservative of 
today, was one of the rebels who skipped their old jobs. He went, along 
with most of the other Washington players, to the Buffalo club of the 
new league. He also invested his life savings in the new team. When the 
organization collapsed at the close of its first season of play, Connie 
was as broke as when he left the shoe factory in East Brookfield. 

His next job was with the Pittsburgh club of the National League. 
He stayed with Pittsburgh for six seasons, although his value as a player 

[ 174 ] 

was lessened considerably by an 1893 accident in which his leg was 
torn open and his ankle fractured by the spikes o a Boston player 
named Herman Long. In 1894, Colonel W. W. Kerr appointed Mack 
manager of the team, replacing Al Buckenberger with a few weeks of 
the season to go. Connie was a widower with three children now. Mrs. 
Mack had died in 1892. 

Mack had little success managing the Smoky City club, and Colonel 
Kerr dropped the guillotine on his slim shoulders in September, 1896* 
Although Connie had no reason to rejoice at the time, it turned out 
to be a great break for him. Ban Johnson, the president of the Western 
League, asked him to take over the job of managing the Milwaukee 
team in that circuit, offering him an interest in die club as an added 
inducement. Mack accepted, and has never had any reason to regret 
it. For that job led directly to his brilliant American League career. 

Although Mack didn't know it when he first went to Milwaukee, 
Ban Johnson had big ideas for his league. He was eager to challenge 
the supremacy of the established National League, and set up his own 
circuit somewhat expanded as a second major league. The first big 
step in this direction was taken at a meeting held in Chicago on October 
14, 1900. 

As a result of the plans made at that conference, Connie was assigned 
to take over as manager of a new club in Philadelphia. The name of 
the league was changed to the American League, and new clubs were 
planned for Baltimore, Washington, and Boston, as well as Philadelphia. 

Johnson suggested that Connie go to Philly and get in touch with 
Ben K Shibe, one of the partners in A. J. Reach and Company, manu- 
facturers of baseballs and other sporting goods. Ban thought Shibe might 
invest some money in the team Connie was scheduled to head. Connie 
himself was given 25 per cent of the stock in the club, while the other 
75 per cent was held by Charlie Somers, who was the financial "angel" 
of the deal. As soon as Shibe came In, he took over two-thirds of the 
Somers stock, thus acquiring a 50 per cent interest in the club. Two 
newspapermen obtained the remaining 25 per cent. 

The Philadelphia club called itself the Athletics, an ancient and 
honorable name in Philadelphia baseball. There had been teams called 
the Athletics in the Quaker City through the years, and the name was 
familiar to the people there. 

John McGraw, the belligerent manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 
the brand new league, didn't think much of the Philadelphia franchise 
and remarked loudly that the Athletics would be the white elephants 
of the league. That stirred Connie's sense of humor, and he promptly 
made the official insignia of the club a white elephant. That's what it is, 
to this day. 

The first American League ball park in Philadelphia was constructed 

f 175 J 

hastily at the comer of Twenty-ninth Street and Columbia Avenue, on 
rented ground. Named Columbia Park, it boasted wooden seats for ap- 
proximately 9,500 customers. It was an adequate setup, even if the breeze 
did carry an Intoxicating smell of freshly-brewed beer as it blew through 
the stands and over the diamond. The park was right in the middle of 
Philadelphia's Brewery town. 

Like all the other managers in the new league, Connie raided Na- 
tional League talent unscrupulously. He has since said he didn't feel 
bad about it because, as an old National League player himself, he 
resented the $2,400 salary ceiling in effect in that circuit. He thought 
the baseball war would give the players a financial break. 

Connie's biggest catch was the immortal second-baseman, Napoleon 
Lajoie, whom he got away from the Phillies, along with two pitchers, 
Chick Fraser and Bill Bernard. He also enticed Lave Cross, who became 
the first captain of the Athletics, out of the St. Louis Cardinals' fold. 
From the ranks of the old Ban Johnson league, he obtained such players 
as Mike Powers and Socks Seybold. From Gettysburg College, he got 
a young pitcher named Eddie Plank. All in all, he had a pretty fair 
club when the season got underway. 

Using, at one time or another, a grand total of 55 players, Connie 
finished fourth in that season of 1901. He wasn't satisfied but he didn't 
feel too bad. His team had performed well, and the individual brilliance 
of Lajoie, Cross, and Plank had done much to endear the team to the 
Philly fans. Things looked so good that Connie took up permanent 
residence in the city. 

And there he has been ever since, never taking his- hand off the 
throttle of the club that in half a century has become one of the great 
organizations of .American sport. They've been tumultuous years, some 
of them wildly successful and some of them dismal failures for the tall, 
skinny manager. Through them all, nobody has even hinted that Connie 
Mack is anything but the finest and most upright of men. Sure, there 
have been plenty of people ready to complain that he does a sloppy job 
of running his ball club. But when you pin down his most bitter critic, 
and ask him what he thinks of the man himself, you get the same answer 
every time: "He's a great old guy." 

As far as his record is concerned, an impartial judge would have 
trouble hanging the rap of incompetence on this baseball veteran. He 
won his first American League pennant in 1902, the second year of the 
new circuit's life, and he added league flags to his string in 1905, 1910, 
1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, and 1931. In five of those pennant- 
winning years his boys walked off with the championship of the world. 
Is that the record of a man bankrupt of managerial skill? 

For that matter, the managers Mack licked in the World Series duels 
he has fought were no stumblebums. He beat Frank Chance in 1910, 

John McGraw in 1911 and 1913, Joe McCarthy in 1929, and Gabby 
Street in 1930. You'd be hard pressed to find any lame-brains in that 

Although he is himself the mildest of men, Connie has never had 
any trouble handling the various types of athletes who have wandered in 
and out of his Philadelphia clubhouse. He even managed to exercise 
a certain amount of control over such immortal screwballs as Rube Wad- 
dell and Ossie Schreck, his brilliant battery of the early 1900*5 and 
that was a test before which the stoutest disciplinarian might well have 

Connie remembers a year when the A's were living in a quiet South- 
ern hotel during the Spring training trip, and the boys were doing a lot 
of grumbling about the food. They were especially critical of the steaks 
served up by the management. It was the contention of the ballplayers 
that they got all the second-grade cuts of meat, the better steaks being 
saved for the other clients. They protested bitterly, and it is a well- 
known fact that a ballplayer can get much more excited about his chow 
than he can about a bad decision at second base. 

Finally, they began sending back the unsatisfactory portions, but they 
soon became convinced the proprietor was merely returning the same 
steaks, rotating them among different players. Refusing to admit defeat, 
the resourceful athletes devised the scheme of making knife marks on 
the steaks they sent back, so they could recognize them if they were 

One day Ossie Schreck, the colorful catcher, got back a steak bearing 
an unmistakable knife mark. Ossie blew up. Shouting imprecations at 
the hotel owner, he rushed out of the dining room and got his hands OB. 
a hammer and some nails. 

Grabbing the offending chunk of meat, Ossie nailed it firmly to the 
wall of the dining room, shouting meanwhile: 'They served this god- 
dam steak twice, but they ain't gonna serve it no three times!" 

Lefty Grove was another peculiar character who was handled smartly 
by the Philadelphia pilot. Grove was an egotistical pitcher who rarely 
got along with anybody. Mack handled him by letting him do pretty 
much as he pleased, applying the screws only when it meant something. 
Lefty was his own coach and his own trainer, but he grew to recognize 
the fact that Connie Mack was the boss. He liked Connie's methods, 
and he worked his head off for him. 

Old Man Mose was the only ballplayer who had the run and took 
it of Mack's, private office. Lefty walked in and out of the sanctum as 
often as he pleased. He was fond of stealing up behind Mack's chair 
and slapping the old boy on the back easing up a little on his swing 
so he wouldn't kill him. And he was the only ballplayer who had the 
nerve to call the boss Connie. 

[177 J 

There was, of course, plenty of reason for Mack to put up with 
Grove's eccentric behavior. From 1927 to 1933, his last year with As, 
Lefty never won less than 20 games. In 1930 he won 28, and in 1931 
he won 31, losing only four. He's the last 3o-game winner the American 
League has seen to this day. 

Part of Mack's managerial technique is his refusal to -bawl out a player 
in front of his mates. He always waits until he can get the offending 
youth aside, and speak to him privately. It works, too. Oh, there have 
been times when it didn't work. But Connie never changes his system. 
Like Joe McCarthy, he simply gets rid of the difficult players. 

"The moment I make up my mind that forbearance and toleration 
will not work with a player," he says, seriously, "I'm through with him 
once and for all." 

Even Mr. Mack can make mistakes, of course. In 1948, he fired 
Nelson Potter because he claimed Potter wasn't trying. The ex-Brownie 
promptly signed on with the Boston Braves and helped pitch them to 
the National League pennant 

Connie has been more than a smart field manager for the A's, He also 
proved himself to be no handicap to the club as a businessman. It was 
at his suggestion that the club erected Shibe Park in 1909, thus acquir- 
ing a modern plant with a capacity (at that time) of 25,000 people. In 
a day when most ball parks held at best 10,000 customers, the Athletics 
had stolen a march on everybody. The club benefited handsomely as 
the crowds poured in to watch Connie's string of championship teams 
in the years 19101914, 

With things going so well, widower Mack made his second marriage 
in 1910. On October 27 of that year he married Katherine Halloran, 
who became the mother of five young Macks Mary, Connie, Jr., Ruth, 
Rita, and Elizabeth. 

There may be some dispute about Connie's tricks in the money- 
spending department, but nobody ever has denied the tall, thin Irish- 
man's right to be called a sportsman. Mister Mack is a sportsman in the 
truest sense. Only under the most extreme provocation will he trade 
harsh words with an opponent, and never will he deliberately take 
advantage of a rival's distress. 

A good example of Connie's strict interpretation of good sportsman- 
ship occurred in one of his World Series duels with John McGraw and 
the New York Giants. A Giant player came home from third base on an 
infield grounder. He got in well ahead of the throw, but he didn't touch 
home plate and everybody in the park noticed his oversight. 

On such a play, of course, the umpire cannot take any action until a 
member of the other team protests the baserunner's failure to touch the 
base. Only then can the man in blue rule on the play. Everyone waited 
for Connie to register the formal protest, but Mack sat ramrod-straight 

[ 178 ] 

on the bench and didn't move a muscle. The head umpire stared curi- 
ously at him, as though inviting the protest everyone expected. Connie 
said nothing, and the game went on. 

Later, a gang of excited reporters tore into the Philadelphia club- 
house and besieged Connie. They exploded questions in a steady bar- 
rage, each one trying to outdo the other. 

"Didn't you see it, Connie?'' 

"Why didn't you Mck, Connie? The limp was all set to call it!" 

The old gentleman raised his hand and quieted the boys. For a few 
seconds he didn't say anything. Then he answered them in one short 
sentence that gave those hard-bitten newsmen the greatest sportsman- 
ship lesson of their lives. 

There was nothing of the showboat in Connie's manner. What he 
had to say, he said simply. Looking the mob over, he asked, quietly: "He 
beat the throw, didn't he?" 

That's Connie Mack for you. Can you picture Leo Durocher letting 
a ballplayer get away with missing home plate just because he thought 
the guy had the throw licked, and deserved to score? But Connie Mack 
did it and he'd do it again, too. Nobody likes to win more than the 
old gentleman from Philadelphia does. But he's from the old school. He's 
particular Jzow he wins. 

Some experts think Connie is too conservative to be a successful man- 
ager. But would a die-hard conservative have gambled with Howard 
Ehmke to open the 1929 World Series against the Chicago Cubs? 
Ehmke, don't forget, had won just seven games all season, worked only 
55 innings, been knocked from the box in his last start, and hadn't 
pitched in weeks. But he set a new Series record for strikeouts as he 
fanned 13 men in winning a memorable ball game. Mack gambled that 
time and won going away. 

There's one thing Connie is conservative about, though. He doesn't 
like the idea of bundling his ballplayers aboard airplanes. "I don't think 
the ball clubs should ever fly," he says. "Flying is too darn dangerous/* 
It's not often, though, that you catch the old man saying anything that 
makes him appear old-fashioned. And who's to say he's wrong in want- 
ing to keep his ballplayers on the ground? Coipiie reads the papers, too. 

The 1914 campaign was one of the toughest of Mack's career despite 
the fact that he had a great crew of ballplayers working for him. That 
was the year of the Federal League invasion. The new "outlaw" circuit, 
backed by Harry F. Sinclair's oil money, Phil Ball's ice fortune, and the 
bankroll of the Ward Baking Company, started to lasso major-league 
stars in much the same way Jorge Pasquel tried to get talent more than 
25 years later. 

Mack's potent crew won 40 of its first 50 games, and everybody in the 
business conceded the pennant to the A's. But then the Federal League 


agents moved In, and began to wave their swollen wallets. The stars of 
the great Philadelphia ball club Collins, Mclnnis, Baker, and the rest 
were prime targets of the ivory-hunters. Danny Murphy, who had 
played on five of Mack's championship clubs, was scouting for the 
Brooklyn entry in the new league, and he was in a position to offer 
some of Connie's top players two and three times what the A's were 
paying them. 

'We had to write a lot of new contracts in the middle of the season," 
Mack recalls. "But the Federals kept raising their offers, and a good 
many of our players became more and more dissatisfied. Then the club 
split into two factions, one advocating a jump to the new league and 
the other holding out for loyalty fo the Athletics. We managed to win 
the pennant because of that fat early lead we had piled up, but we were 
riddled by dissension by the time the World Series came around. So 
we were easy prey for George Stallings' sensational Boston Braves. That 
was the team that was in last place in July, remember?" 

That 1914 club was the first of the two great teams that Mack de- 
liberately dismantled. First to go was Eddie Collins, the peerless second- 
baseman, who was dispatched to the Chicago White Sox in exchange 
for a $50,000 check. Then Mack released his three star pitchers, Chief 
Bender, Eddie Plank, and Jack Coombs. Bender and Plank went into 
the Federal League, while Coombs caught on with the Brooklyn 
Dodgers of the National League. Early in the '15 season, Mack let 
the Boston Red Sox have star shortstop Jack Barry for the paltry sum 
of $8,000. 

The A's finished dead last that season, and they didn't stick their 
noses out of the cellar until they had spent seven consecutive seasons 
at the bottom of the league. In 1916, Connie sold Home Run Baker to 
the Yankees for $37,500, When his club finished last again that season, 
he unloaded catcher Wally Schang, center-fielder Amos Strunk, and 
pitcher Joe Bush to the Red Sox for three nondescript players and a 
highly negotiable $60,000 check. 

And that's the way it went. Whether it all started because Mack was 
sore at his '14 team for blowing the World Series to the Braves, or 
whether he was tired of paying out high salaries in a period of inter- 
national uncertainty, nobody can guess. 

As I pointed out earlier, Connie claims he didn't do it for profit, but 
for the good of the club. It could be. The fact remains that most base- 
ball fans don't see it that way. They don't understand how a manager 
can expect to improve his team by selling or trading away all his best 
players. According to the creed of the bleacherite, those are the tactics 
of a man who wants to lose. 

Nobody ever has accused Connie Mack of wanting to lose, but it has 
been said that he's more interested in stuffing money into his safe deposit 

f i80 ] 

box than he is In winning. Yet Mack has shown a willingness to part 
with some fat sums for ballplayers he thought would help his club. He 
paid $105,000 for Lefty Grove (and later sold him and two other players 
to Torn Yawkey for $125,000, after using him for nine seasons), $50,000 
for Mickey Cochrane, $75,000 for Sammy (Bad News) Hale, and 
$75,000 for George Earnshaw, to name a few. 

Connie doesn't brag about it, but he also shelled out $45,000 for an 
untried second-baseman named Benny McCoy a few years before World 
War II. As it turned out, Benny wasn't the real McCoy, and Mister 
Mack was stuck but good. However, the case proves that Connie has 
been known to throw sizable bundles of scratch around in an effort to 
put some life into his team. 

It took Connie a long time to get his club out of the depths, but once 
he got started he moved forward steadily. Last for the seventh time in a 
row in 1921, he finished seventh in 1922, sixth in '23, fifth in '24, and 
second in '25. The A's slipped to third in '26, then were second again 
in '27 and "28, and finally hit the jackpot. Shibe Park again flew pen- 
nants after the seasons of 1929, 1930, and 1931* 

To get up there, Mack had to spend. The Yankees, under Colonel 
Jacob Ruppert, were free spenders. Connie had to dip into the till heavily 
in order to keep the New York club from getting a corner on the talent 
market. Furthermore, at the time Connie began to swap checks for 
players, instead of vice versa, he was a full 50 per cent owner of the 
club. He had bought out the two newspapermen who held 25 per cent 
of the stock. So he had a heavy interest in every dollar that went out. 
But he still sped the U. S. Government engravings on their way in his 
search for a pennant. 

When he finally made it, Mack made it with plenty to spare. His 
1929 Athletics, powered by the slugging of Jimmy Foxx and Al Sim- 
mons, raced in a full 18 games ahead of the second place Yankees. It 
was a great moment for the stern-faced manager. He had been under a 
heavy barrage for seven long years, and he had vindicated himself. 

It was a classy ball club that Connie fielded that year. Mickey Coch- 
rane, the famous Black Mike, was behind the plate, and a better catcher 
never lived, though there may have been one or two as good. There were 
stars like Bing Miller, Max Bishop, Jimmy Dykes, and Joe Boley, to 
team with those sweethearts of swing, Foxx and Simmons. The pitching 
corps included Lefty Grove, George Earnshaw, Rube Walberg, and Ed 
Rommel. Quite an outfit by any standards. 

After he won the '29 pennant and salted away a World Series victory 
over Joe McCarthy s Chicago Cubs, Mack went to Florida for a rest 
In February, 1930, he was summoned back to Philadelphia to receive 
the Bok Prize as the man who rendered the greatest service to the city 
in 1929. It was a great honor for old Connie* 

f i8i ] 

That was the first time the celebrated award ever had been made to 
anyone but an eminent intellectual or statesman. The Grand Old Man 
of Baseball, as they already were calling him then, was given a gold 
medal, a citation, and a check for $10,000. 

Despite the fact that muscular James Emory Foxx larruped 58 homers 
and drove in 169 runs in 1932 the A's couldn't make it four in a row. 
They had virtually the same team, but something had gone out of the 
well-oiled machine. The Yankees won in a walk, and the A's were a 
bad second. 

The national depression was at its height and so was Connie Mack's 
payroll. The combination was too much for the old gentleman. Once 
again, as he did in 191 5, Mack began to unload. The Chicago White Sox 
contributed a whopping $150,000 for Al Simmons, Jimmy Dykes, and 
Mule Haas, and that was the end of another great era in Philadelphia 

After the Athletics finished third in 1933, Connie's ax fell again. He 
peddled Mickey Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers for $100,000 of Frank 
Navin's money, then opened negotiations with a millionaire named 
Tom Yawkey who had just bought the Boston Red Sox and installed 
Connie's coach and former star, Eddie Collins, as his general manager, 
Mack may have wanted to see Collins get off to a good start. Whatever 
his reasons, he let the Red Sox have Lefty Grove, Rube Walberg, and 
Max Bishop for $125,000. He got $20,000 from the White Sox for 
George Earnshaw. And once again the Philadelphia patriarch had money 
in the bank and no ball club. 

Apologists for Mack swear the old man never was gunning for riches 
when he sold these stars. That may be so. But dropping players like 
Cochrane and Grove, the kind of performers who come along just once 
or twice a decade, is no way to fight for championships. Connie got 
away with selling one ball club. He never quite got away with selling 
the second. There are people in Philadelphia who haven't forgiven 
him yet. 

The old man inadvertently reopened the sore subject shortly before 
the 1948 season got underway when he uncorked a beef about the whole- 
sale unloading of star players by the St. Louis Browns. "I don't under- 
stand it at all, and I think it's very bad for our league," said Connie, 
after the Brownies had peddled Jack Kramer, Bob Muncrief, Walt 
Judnich, Ellis Kinder, Billy Hitchcock, and the great shortstop, Vern 

All over the country the hounds of the sports pages leaped at the 
opportunity to shove the distinguished patriarch's words down his throat. 
"Who," they chorused, "knows more about the fine art of breaking up 
ball clubs than Connie Mack? He's a past master at it." 

It is, of course, difficult for the most prejudiced Mack enthusiast to 


wriggle out of that one. Connie definitely was on thin ice when be 
slipped the needle into Diclc Muckerman and Bill DeWitt of the Browns. 
After all, Connie practically invented the break-'em-up-and-sell-'em-off 
technique as an unbeatable method of replenishing the till. 

Nor did Connie's upbraiding of the Browns carry any more conviction 
when he piously lamented that he was thinking only of the good of the 
league. A lot of people would like to know where Mack buried his con- 
cern for the good of the league when he wrecked his own championship 
clubs and tunneled deep into the cellar for year after monotonous year. 

The last of the championship Athletics to leave Shibe Park was Jimmy 
Foxx. He went to Yawkey's "Gold Sox/' as the papers were terming the 
Boston club. The millionaire Red Sox owner got pitcher Johnny Mar- 
cum along with Foxx, and Connie Mack got $150,000. 

That was that. Since the 1934 season, when the White Elephants 
came home in fifth place, the Mackmen have finished last nine times. 
They were seventh twice, tied for fifth in 1944, fifth in 1947, and a 
rousing fourth in 1948, the season that saw them occupy the rarefied 
heights of first place so often they were dubbed "The Amazing A's." 
Not even Connie Mack knows what the future holds for them, but few 
baseball men give the A's a chance to improve their lot. The Yankees, 
the Tigers, the Red Sox, and the Indians have aggressive owners and 
lots of money. It's going to be hard for aging Connie Mack to fight those 
clubs on even terms. If he intends to do it, he's certainly going to have 
to spend money and take chances. Whether or not he's willing to do 
that, nobody knows. A lot of folks in Philadelphia are mighty curious. 

It would be a mistake to assume that the city Connie has made his 
home has lost its respect for him. That's a long way from the truth. The 
people in Philly may get impatient with old Connie, but they still love 
him. They've shown their affection for him many times. 

In 1941, for example, the Pennsylvania State Legislature declared that 
May 17 of that year would be "Connie Mack Day/' and made it a state 
holiday. When the big day rolled around, over 1 5,000 fans braved rainy 
weather to honor the great manager and against his wishes change the 
name of Shibe Park to Connie Mack Stadium. 

When you go to Philadelphia today, and visit the ball park, you can 
see the words Shibe Park engraved in the stone archways. And under- 
neath youll see the more recent black signs with their white letters 
reading Connie Mack Stadium. 

True, nobody calls it Connie Mack Stadium, not even the newspaper- 
men in their daily stories. But that's not because of any lack of affection 
for the old man. Habit is just too strong. Fiorello LaGuardia never got 
the people of New York City to change the name of Sixth Avenue to 
Avenue of the Americas, either for the same reason. 

George M. Cohan marked the occasion by writing a special song for 

[ 183 ] 

Connie, The famous Yankee Doodle Boy, composer of such songs as 
"Over There" and "Give My Regards to Broadway/' was raised in North 
Brookfield, not far from Connie's home. He turned out a ditty called, 
"Connie Mack is the Grand Old Name." You can bet it warmed the 
bottom of the old manager's heart when he heard it. 

In late years, Connie has been keeping more and more in the back- 
ground as the A's romp through Spring training. He lets his son, Earle, 
and the coaches handle the team, and he tries to keep out of sight. 

Ira Thomas, the Athletics' scout, tells an amusing story which illus- 
trates this. It happened when the A's were doing their training in Mont- 
gomery, Alabama, sometimes known as the Cradle of the Confederacy. 

One of the rookies trying out for the team came up to Thomas In the 
lobby of the club's hotel and asked him what the name of the town was, 
explaining he wanted to mention it in a letter home. 

"What?" demanded Ira. "You mean you've been here nearly a week 
and you still don't know the name of the town? You'd better not let Mack 
hear about this!" 

The rookie looked at him with his mouth open, a puzzled look on his 
honest young face. "Who," he asked, "is Mack?" 

No matter how fast the years pile up on his narrow shoulders, Connie 
never loses his enthusiasm for the game of baseball. He is so obviously 
crazy about the sport that you can't help discounting some of the stories 
that seek to paint him as a miser who is happy only when he's in his 
counting-house with the gate receipts. Anybody who has spent much 
time with Connie Mack knows the old man is happiest when he's watch- 
ing his boys battling to win a ball game. He's seen a lot of games, but 
not so many that he doesn't still get a bang out of winning them. 

The game keeps him young. He gets a new lease on life every Spring. 
Even the bad times, when the club can't seem to win for losing, Connie 
takes with a smile. Says he, whimsically: "There is only one thing more 
mysterious and baffling than the way of a serpent on a rock or the way 
of a man with a maid, and that is the mental processes of a fielder, a 
catcher, or a pitcher." 

When he tells you something, it's impossible to sit across from him 
and doubt his sincerity. Perhaps this is a special form of hypnotic in- 
fluence that old men exert over young men but I doubt it. I prefer to 
believe Connie meant every word of it when he told me, "My one great 
desire is to give Philadelphia another great ball team. We'll be in there 
trying, but I realize it's a question if at my age I'll ever have another 
world championship club. It's a hard game ... a hard game.'* 

Connie Mack's famous scorecard doesn't wave vigorously from the 
corner of the Philadelphia dugout any more. The old gentleman contents 
himself with directing the overall strategy of the game. But he has no 
thought of giving up the executive or field leadership of his club. 


"Unless I knew I was over 86," he says, "I wouldn't believe it. I feel 
fine. I like traveling and I love the game of baseball just as much as I 
ever did. I like being with the boys. I don't use my scorecard in the dug- 
out like I used to because I don't know all my young pitchers so well. 
When the time comes when my players get to telling me how the game 
should be played, then 111 know I'm through. When my brain weakens, 
and I've become a handicap, then I'll step out but not until then." 

If you're a sentimentalist, you'll send up three silent cheers for the old 
man who could make a speech like that. If you love baseball not only for 
the excitement of rooting home your favorite team, but also for the won- 
derful people who play the game, you'll feel an almost irresistible urge 
to walk up to Connie Mack and shake his hand and wish him well. 

Youll say to yourself, if you are susceptible to an occasional touch of 
hero-worship, that it sure would be nice, wouldn't it, if the old guy could 
win another one? Maybe your better judgment would be tugging you 
in the opposite direction, and maybe something inside you would protest 
that the people who pay to see the Athletics play ball have a right to a 
winning team. And that's true. The rights and wishes of the people of 
Philadelphia have to be considered above all else. 

And they're still the people who love Connie Mack most of all 




By Ed 

ROBERT William Andrew Feller, a son of the Iowa corn country, 
a laborer whose staggering hire is paid by the Cleveland Indians 
of the American League, unquestionably is the most celebrated 
baseball pitcher of his generation. 

Only two or three other big-league ballplayers can compare to this 
muscular farm boy's history as a box-office draw. The customers have for 
years poured into the parks all around the circuit to see him shackle the 
batters, just as they once good-humoredly shoved their way in to see the 
incomparable Babe Ruth blast his gargantuan home runs. Bob is a gold- 
plated magnet, a one-man show, a performer every baseball fan must see 
before he can say he has lived. 

Though the Cleveland club probably has paid Bob as much as $90,000 
a season to throw baseballs, nobody will hear President Bill Veeck com- 
plaining too loudly about Feller's price tag. From the early days of Spring 
training through the last games on the schedule, Bob packs the stands. 
Just incidentally, he also wins a pile of ball games for the Indians. 

It was generally agreed that Feller had a bad year in 1948 but he still 
won 19 games, including eight big victories down the stretch of the hot- 
test American League pennant race there ever was. Any big-league man- 
ager would love to have a dozen pitchers who could perform like that 
on an off year. 

Watching him, you get the feeling you're looking at one of the great 
ones. You can't get away from it. Greatness is reflected in Bobby Feller's 
easy, casual grace as he rockets his fast ball past another slugger. Great- 
ness is in the air when he's on the mound, leaning forward in that intent 
way of his to get the catcher's signal You tingle inside as you watch 
the abject helplessness of the hitters. You find yourself crossing your 
fingers and hoping he's really hot, hoping he turns them all away hitless, 
so you can go home and tell your pals you saw him do it. 

The experts agree that this pitching prodigy barely in his thirties is 
already worthy of a place alongside the masters of bygone days the 
Mathewsons, the Johnsons, the Alexanders, the Groves, the Hubbells, 
and the Deans. Yet when you look at him, when you shake his powerful 
right hand and speak to him, you forget his awesome reputation and dis- 


cover he's a real guy* He .may make more money than tlie 'President of 
the United States, but Bob Feller never acts as though he thought he 
were better than anybody else. Luckier, maybe, but not better. 

This is not to be construed as implying that Bullet Bob doesn't think 
he's the best pitcher in the business. That he does and why not? 
Through the season of 1948 he won 177 major-league ball games for a 
team that only rarely was good enough to be a pennant contender, and 
not until '48 was good enough to win the flag. He has pitched two no- 
hitters, one against the Chicago White Sox and another against the 
New York Yankees, He has pitched 10 one-hit games. Five times he 
has won 20 or more games in a single season. As he went along, he set 
a new major-league record for strikeouts in a single game, fanning 18 
Detroit Tigers in a 1938 game. He broke Rube Waddell's season strike- 
out record of 343 by whiffing 348 batters in 1946. For a young fellow 
approaching the peak of his powers, that's a moderately good record. 

But everybody knows that much about the famous fireballer. What 
the average fan doesn't know about is Bob's shrewd business sense. This 
small-town youngster, with only a high-school education, has made 
himself into a financier and businessman of considerable stature. You 
wouldn't suspect this quality when you first observe Bob. He's got a 
homespun, open face a face that carries the map of midwestern America 
as plainly as Abe Lincoln's did. It's the kind of face that makes you 
think of words like guileless, artless, even naive. 

You'd be about as safe calling Feller naive as you would be standing 
up at the plate and daring him to dust you off with that fast ball. Bob 
is such a competent, successful business man, and has so many far-flung 
interests, that he has incorporated himself in the State of Ohio under 
the name of Ro-Fel, Inc. 

His newest business enterprise is in radio broadcasting. Bob decided 
he'd like to try radio early in 1946 and by Spring, he was completing a 
deal with a Cleveland radio producer named Arden Gifford. Bob is run- 
ning a weekly half-hour recorded show on which he interviews guest 
stars and talks about baseball matters. 

When I first saw him, he was just back from a visit to Paramount 
Studios in Hollywood, where he visited Bob Hope (who owns a modest 
piece of the Indians) and Bing Crosby. 

"Did you have a good time?" one of his teammates asked. 

"Sure did," said Robert. "Not only did I have a good time, but I signed 
up both of them for guest shots on my radio show." 

That's Feller for you. He enjoys every minute of life, but he's always 
on the alert for a chance to make a shrewd deal. Which is the reason he 
banked about $70,000 from the Cleveland club for his 1946 salary, then 
by his own efforts matched that sum with roughly $60,000 more, real- 
ized from various and sundry enterprises. 

Despite his big-business flair, Bob manages to act like any other young 
man. He's cheerful and fond of good company, quick with a gag and 
good-natured when he's the butt of one. One of the Cleveland sports- 
writers was in Bob's note! room when he returned from that Crosby- 
Hope visit. Hope gave Feller a copy of each of his three books, with 
suitable inscriptions. One of the inscriptions read, 'It is always a pleasure 
to watch you. Now read a little of me." 

"Did Hope ever see you pitch?" the sportswriter asked. 

"No," Bob answered. Grinning, he said, "I've paid to see him lots of 
times, but he's never paid to see me." He thought for a second, then 
burst out laughing. "Hey," he added, "now that he owns a piece of the 
ball club, he never will!" 

There can be little doubt but that Bob is the kind of guy who could 
have been successful in any line of endeavor. If he'd stuck to farming, 
he'd have been a whiz at it. That radio show is an excellent example of 
Bob's versatility and persistence. When he first got the idea, he made a 
sample recording for some radio people. 

"Well," they said doubtfully, "it may work out in time. But you're 
about a year away." 

Completely undisturbed, Bob went back to work, rehearsed furiously, 
got advice from everyone he knew who was in a position to give it, and 
made another record. Back to the radio executives he went, and played 
the new one. 

'Well, okay," they said. ""That's good enough for us. Let's talk busi- 

Business, to Bob Feller, means business every minute. For instance, 
he told me that when a national magazine recently ran a cover-story 
about his business acumen, he settled not just for the publicity value 
involved, but also got half the substantial check. 

Under the sponsorship of the Des Moines (Iowa) Register syndicate, 
Bob writes a newspaper column which adds a sizable sum to his gross 
take for the year. He has made deals for the use of his name in endorse- 
ments by the Popsickle, Wheaties, Gillette, and Wilson Sporting Goods 
people. And, of course, he cleaned up on several post-season barnstorm- 
ing tours. 

Bob saw the huge sums of money which the Cleveland club made, 
month in and month out, by exploiting the name of Bob Feller. So he 
decided to get on the bandwagon himself. He signed a squad of first- 
class major-leaguers, booked a cross-country tour, and set out to make 
some real money. The skeptics snorted and said he'd lose his shirt, that he 
was stepping way out of his league. "Feller ought to have enough sense 
to stick to pitching," they criticized. They should make the kind of money 
Bob made on that 1946 tour. 

"I risked about $50,000 on the project," Bob says. "Just the two air- 

[ 188 ] 

planes we used cost me $17,000. But I was sure we'd get it back, and 
we did." He smiled, and added, "And then some." 

Not only did Feller do all right on the barnstorming expedition, but 
the ballplayers who strung along with him on the deal had no cause to 
regret it, either. Spud Chandler, Stan Musial, Charley Keller, Ken Kelt- 
net, Rollie Hemsley, Jeff Heath, and the others did better than all right. 
Especially Musial. The big Cardinal slugger was in the World Series 
against the Red Sox that year and drew $3,757 for his share of the win- 
ner's melon. Joining Feller's circus after the Series, he pocketed a cool 

"Everybody made money/' says Bob, "but Uncle Sam made the most/' 
As far as future barnstorming projects are concerned, Bob isn't sure. He 
has been criticized severely for letting outside activities interfere with 
his work for the Indians and he may well decide to confine his future 
pitching to his assignments for Cleveland. 

Bob made a good piece of change out of his book, "Strikeout Story/' 
published in 1947 by A. S. Barnes. Early that Spring the boys on the 
Cleveland squad were kidding him about his lackadaisical performances 
in exhibition games. "You'd better get somebody out pretty soon if you 
expect to sell any of those books/' one of the boys told him. 

"Yeah, you're not kidding," Bob replied. "I got a telegram from New 
York, after the Giants and die Cubs had blasted me for five runs apiece 
in exhibition games, saying four bookstores had cancelled their orders/' 

"Don't feel too bad, Bobby," said another ballplayer. "At least you're 
keeping your hits well scattered. Some inside the park and some outside 
the park." 

Everybody in the loom roared at that one, Bob included. That's one 
thing about the guy. He's no prima donna. He's genuinely liked by all 
the boys on the team. It could easily be otherwise, when you consider 
how much more money Bob makes than the others do. The gang likes 
to meet in Bob's room, likes to eat with him, or go out for some ice cream 
with him on a hot Summer night. 

"He's a great guy," one of his teammates told me. "With all the head- 
lines he's gotten, and all the big fat checks he's picked up, you'd think 
he'd get to figuring he was the most important man in the world. But 
not Feller. He's just a helluva nice kid who happens to have the best 
right arm in baseball." 

The conversation switched to the way Bob gets belted around in 
Spring exhibition games these years. "The day you see me bear down 
in an exhibition game early in the year," Bob proclaimed, "is the day 
I'm through. That's the quickest way there is to ruin your arm." 

Picking up the phone, Bob called room service and treated the gang 
to some light chow. The operator couldn't make out his name. "Feller/' 
he said, repeatedly, "F-E-L-L-E-R, Feller. Room 561." 

[ 189 ] 

"Stop trying to impress her," the boys hollered. "You're wasting your 
time. And don't go into the bathroom when the check comes/' Bob 
grinned like a kid and threw a pillow at his tormentors. His sense of 
humor is always working, especially when the joke's on him. You can't 
help but like a guy like that It's obvious the boys found that out a long, 
long time ago. 

Marshall Bossard, a Cleveland groundskeeper, picked up the phone 
and told the operator, "I want to make a long distance call to Cleveland." 
The gang roared. Feller arched an eyebrow at him but Marshall, a fast- 
talking character, kept right on going. "No, this isn't Mr. Feller," he 
said, "but charge it to Feller's account." 

"Keep going, boy," said Feller. "You'll never get another chance like 
this. 111 have the phone taken out the next time you come up." Bossard 
got his wife and started talking. Bob grabbed a portable radio off his 
desk and hauled it up next to the telephone. Turning it on full blast, he 
picked up a dance band. All the guys yelled, "Happy New Year," and 
Feller imitated a girl's voice. 

"It's just the boys," Bossard was explaining. "Honest, honey, it's just 
the boys. And don't worry about how long you talk. It's on Feller." 

Someone mentioned the $25-a-week expense allowance the ballplayers 
get during Spring training. It's a favorite topic. "That's why they're at- 
tracting so many college guys," said Feller. "Those football players are 
used to that kind of dough. It doesn't shock them." 

They talked about going out for a while. Bob looked at his watch. It 
was 10 o'clock. "Have to be back by midnight," he announced, "or it'll 
cost us $i 50. That's six weeks* pay." Coming from him, that brought the 
house down. 

Bob Feller, whose name is as widely known in America as that of any 
statesman, artist, scientist, or entertainer, has been crazy about playing 
baseball all his life. He was born on a farm in Van Meter, Iowa, on 
November 3, 1918. Instead of being crowded for play space on a city 
street, he had all the room in the world and he used it to play ball 
every time he got a chance. 

The story of how Bob's father, Bill Feller, set out to make him a big- 
league pitcher, has been told over and over again. It's a little exaggerated, 
which is bound to happen when any story has been retold so often, but 
there's no doubt that Bob's Dad helped his career more than somewhat. 

"My father didn't deliberately plan to turn me into a major-league 
pitcher," Bob says, "but he did encourage my love for baseball, and he 
always did his best to teach me what I wanted to know. We lived in a 
town where everybody was crazy about baseball, so it was easy for a 
boy to grow up with die idea that a ball game was just about the most 
fun in the world." 

I asked him if it was true that his father always encouraged him to 

[ 190 ] 

skip farm chores in order to concentrate on baseball practice. Bob 
grinned. "No," he answered. "That wasn't the case at all. We did plenty 
on that farm besides play ball" 

But baseball was very much in Bob Feller's blood, and he couldn't 
have hidden it if he wanted to which he didn't, "Every time I went to 
town with my mother to do some shopping," he recalls, "I'd pick up a 
ball in one of the stores, and she'd have to buy it for me. Not necessarily 
a baseball. It could be a tennis ball, a plain rubber ball any kind of a 
ball. Then I'd take it home and play catch, or bounce it off the wall, 
or whatever came into my head. I was always throwing a ball at some- 
thing or someone." 

Bob did his first serious pitching for an amateur team called the Oak 
Views, which his father organized. The team played on a diamond 
hacked out of a Feller wheat field. It was good experience for Bob. 
He didn't always pitch. Sometimes he played shortstop, but he always 
played. At the same time he was beginning to pitch for the Van Meter 
High School team, so he was getting plenty of baseball. He was ready 
for it. Feller, who stands six feet one and usually weighs around 185 
pounds today, was a big, rangy boy. He had the stamina to play every 
day even then. 

It was in 1935 that his father signed a contract with the Indians for 
the boy. But Bob was too young to join the club yet. He continued to 
work around the farm, helping his dad worry about their 75 head of 
Hereford cattle, their 75 hogs, and the 360 acres they had under culti- 
vation. Pitching semi-pro ball on Sundays, he made as much as $35 and 
$40 a game. No wonder the rawboned farmboy decided baseball would 
be a good career. 

The whiplash arm that handcuffed the semi-pro batters around Van 
Meter was shortly to make an electrifying impression upon all the base- 
ball fans in the United States. 

As most everybody knows, there was a lot of fuss about Bob's signing 
with the Indians. As briefly as possible, this is the real story. Pro baseball 
has a rule which says a major-league team may not sign an amateur 
player until he has first labored for a minor-league team. Only college 
players are excepted from this rule, the idea being that some college 
products may already have the stuff to move right under the big tent. 
But, like many a baseball rule, this regulation has been adroitly violated 
more than several times. 

The technique favored by big-league clubs eager to circumvent the 
rule is simple. When a scout spots a hot sandlot prospect, he notifies a 
friendly minor-league team. The minor-league club then hires the player 
with the understanding that the major-league team which discovered 
him has an option on his services. 

So when a scout for the Indians stumbled across Feller at Des Moines> 

Iowa, In 1935, lie arranged for the boy to sign a contract with the Fargo- 
Moorhead team of the Northern League, Before Bobby played a game 
for Fargo-Moorhead, the Indians had him transferred to the more impor- 
tant New Orleans club of the Southern Association. Then, before he 
played a single game for the Pelicans, Cleveland maneuvered to have 
Feller placed on the voluntarily retired list. That made him the youngest 
retired performer in baseball history* He was 16. 

The year 1936 rolled around, and Bob's baseball was still confined to 
the Van Meter High School squad, on which he was going great guns. 
He hurt his arm, though, before the end of the high-school season, and 
his team missed a good chance to win the state championship. Then the 
Indians, who still weren't sure what they had in this highly recom- 
mended fireballing youngster, sent for him. 

From high school team to major-league uniform in one month, that's 
Feller's record. You can bet your new car that it isn't done that way very 
often. But pitchers like Feller don't come along very often. The muscles 
in his lean right arm have the strength of steel beams and the elasticity 
of rubber bands. 

Another of the standard Feller legends has it that when he first went 
up, Bob earned his keep selling peanuts in the Cleveland ball park. Bob 
laughs at that story. "I never saw a peanut there/' he told me. "But I 
threw a lot of baseballs, and I worked plenty hard." It wasn't long 
before the Indians got an urge to see what he could do. What they 
found out not only astonished them and opened the eyes of everybody 
in the trade, but amazed fans from East to West. 

The Indians were tangling with the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibi- 
tion game. Feller was sent in for a three-inning workout. He tossed a 
few half-speed pitches to catcher Steve O'Neill, and he was ready to go. 
He went and how! Nine Cards trudged up to the plate, and eight of 
them struck out, in those three innings. That came very close to being 

Essable pitching. The word went out over the telegraph wires that the 
dians had another Walter Johnson. It took some time for the boys in 
the press box to correct that first observation. Cleveland didn't have 
"another" anything. The Indians had the one and only Bob Feller. 

This farmboy from Iowa had a fast ball that smoked. He reared back 
and chucked the ball in there like a Navy dive-bomber going downhill. 
The boys had never seen anything like it. The batters were lucky to get 
a good look at the ball, much less a piece of it. They just swung. It 
looked better to strike out that way than to stand there with your bat 
on your shoulder. Anyway, they figured, you could always get lucky. 
But not many of them got lucky against Feller. 

True, young Bob wasn't always sure where the ball was going when 
he let fly. But that, after all, was the batters' worry. And they worried 
plenty. Not many of them were willing to take a substantial toe-hold 


at the plate against Bobby. They were wary up there, plenty cautious, 
always ready to hit the dirt. 

Even today Bob will tell you, "It's a help to have a reputation as a 
strikeout pitcher. It makes the batters feel they've got to prove them- 
selves against you, rather than vice versa. But for a real help there's 
nothing like a reputation for having a hot fast ball that's a little bit 
wild. Then they really worry up at that plate," 

Delighted at Bobby's prowess, the Cleveland club nevertheless had 
good reason to be deeply alarmed. Numerous other teams weighed in 
with offers to buy the young pitcher. When the Indians refused to sell 
him, the rival clubs began to ask embarrassing questions about his back- 
ground. "Does Cleveland legally own him?" they wanted to know. It 
was a very interesting question. Before it was answered, it just about 
stood the baseball world on its collective ear. 

A minor-league club, Des Moines of the Western League, protested 
to Baseball Commissioner Landis that Feller legally could not be the 
property of the Indians. Des Moines pointed out the incontrovertible 
fact that Rapid Robert, as the papers already were calling him, never 
had played for a minor-league team, therefore could not join the majors. 

The good Judge took the case under advisement. It was a potato hot 
enough to sizzle even the Judge's competent hands. The alternatives 
were precarious, to say the least. If Landis simply ruled that Cleveland 
owned Feller, he would place himself in the position, of blinking at a 
flagrant violation of the baseball law he was sworn to uphold. On the 
other hand, if he ruled that Bob was a free agent and could be signed 
by anyone, he'd be working something of an injustice against the Indi- 
ans, who had discovered the boy. And he'd be paving the way for simi- 
lar questions about the ownership of other big-leaguers who had been 
brought up in like manner. 

Calmly awaiting Landis' decision, young Bob Feller had, roughly, 
$100,000 at stake. He could have gotten all of that, and maybe more, 
for signing with another team if he were declared a free agent. But Bob 
was loyal to his team. When the newspaper boys asked him what team 
he'd like to play for, he answered firmly, "Cleveland. I want to play for 
the Indians/' 

The Judge fixed it so he could. Cleveland, Landis ruled, could keep 
Feller, but would have to pay a modest $7,500 to Des Moines because 
of the minor-league club's claim that its scouts had seen Feller first. It 
was a wise decision. It saved a lot of confusion all around. Bobby Feller 
went back to work. In a few short months he proved beyond doubt that 
he was one of the greatest pitchers the game had ever seen. 

In that first season with the Indians actually it was only part of a 
season young Feller appeared in 14 games. He won five and lost three, 
striking out 76 batters in 62, innings. His strikeout record, better than 

f 193 ] 

one per inning, was what captured the fancy of the public, and gave the 
best indication of his future greatness. 

The first time Bob Feller walked out to a major-league mound for an 
official American League game, he struck out 15 batters and licked the 
St. Louis Browns. Two weeks later, hurling against the Philadelphia 
Athletics, he struck out 17 men to tie Dizzy Dean's major-league strike- 
out record. He was 17 years old, that's all, but he had a bullwhip for a 
right arm, and he knew how to get the most out of it. 

"What do you do when you're in trouble, Bob?" the newspaper boys 
asked him. "You don't know much about the weaknesses or strong points 
of the players in the league yet, do your 5 " 

"No," the kid from the Iowa farm answered. 'The men at Cleveland 
told me not to worry about things like that. They said for me just to 
throw that fast one in there, so I do." 

Naturally, there were plenty of scoffers around to proclaim loudly that 
Feller was a freak, a pitching clown, a rubber-armed kid who couldn't 
possibly last. If they said it where people could hear them, they're prob- 
ably still hiding. 

Which brings up an amusing story. During the Spring of 1937 the 
Indians played a string of exhibition games with the New York Giants, 
and Feller was one of the big points of interest on that tour. Not only 
to the customers, but to the ballplayers themselves. Rowdy Richard Bar- 
tell, the Giants' shortstop, watched Bobby a while and made up his mind 
in a hurry. 

"Not as fast as Van Mungo," he announced. Around the ball park 
went Bartell, never noted for being a close-mouthed individual. "Not as 
fast as Mungo," he repeated. As always happens, word of Bartell's pro- 
mmciamento got back to Feller. The kid from Van Meter nodded so- 
berly, but said nothing. 

The first game in which Bartell got a chance to bat against Feller was 
an exhibition at Vicksburg, Mississippi. He managed to lift a towering 
fly to the infield. Back to the Giants' bench he trotted, cheerfully assur- 
ing one and all that, "just as I said, he's not as fast as Mungo." Nineteen 
times Bartell faced Feller on that trip, and 16 times he struck out. 

Dick got madder and madder but he couldn't do a thing about it. Nor 
would he retract his opinion. Every time he fanned, he stubbornly pro- 
claimed, more loudly each time, that Feller wasn't as fast as Mungo. In 
later years Bartell was traded to the Detroit Tigers, and had to bat 
against Feller during the regular season. He kept right on striking out, 
and he kept right on minimizing Bobby's greatness. 

There is nothing on record to prove that Feller bore down extra hard 
on the peppery little shortstop, but he smiles when you remind him of 
the incident today. "Oh, Bartell," he says. "Yeah, he sure was stubborn," 

In 1937 Bob began to catch on a little to the niceties of big-league 

f i94 ] 

play. He still wasn't a polished pitcher by any means, but he had that 
smoking fast ball Everybody in the business knew it was just a matter 
of time. He won nine games that year, and lost seven, striking out 150 
batters in the process. His earned run average was 3.38, which is enough 
to keep any pitcher on a major-league payroll at a good salary. 

Things were even better in 1938, when he won 17 games and lost i i. 
That was the year he set a new major-league strikeout record for a single 
game, breaking the mark he shared with Dizzy Dean by fanning 18 
Detroit Tigers. That record still stands. It's one of the records Bob has 
his eyes on. Td like to break it before Tm through/* he says, quietly. "I 
think I have a pretty good chance to do it." 

That was Feller s last moderately good year. From then on he was 
up with the pitching leaders every season. Backed up by a team that was 
little better than mediocre either at bat or in the field, he won 24 games 
in 1939, 27 in 1940, and 25 in 1941, his last pre-service year. In 1940 he 
pitched his first no-hitter, setting down the Chicago White Sox without 
a hit on April 16, the opening day of the season for both clubs. 

Maybe the first time all the critics reached a real degree of unanimity 
in appraising Bob's greatness was when he pitched in the All-Star game 
in July, 1939. When Bob finished his work in that one, there weren't 
many left who would argue that he lacked any of the qualifications. 

The Indians' fireballer was waved into the game in the middle of the 
sixth inning, relieving Tommy Bridges of the Detroit Tigers. The rangy 
kid with the big "Cleveland" on his chest was in a tough spot. His 
American League team had a 3-1 lead, but the National Leaguers had 
the bases loaded with only one out. There were 63,000 fans in New 
York's Yankee Stadium as the husky farmer boy from the tall com coun- 
try strode out to the mound. He looked about as nervous as if he were 
going to mail a letter at the box on the corner. 

Arky Vaughan of the Pirates, always a dangerous hitter, was up. That 
meant Bob was in trouble right away. Feller loosened his arm with a few 
practice pitches, then walked off the mound and studied the batter. The 
fans tightened up. This was baseball drama at its peak. 

Bob walked on the rubber, wound up, and let it ride. His first pitch 
was a fast ball, low. Vaughan swung at it, and topped a grounder to 
second-baseman Joe Gordon of the Yankees. Gordon flipped it to Bos- 
ton's Joe Cronin at second, and Joe shuttled It to Detroit's Hank Green- 
berg at first. A double play, and the side was out Bob didn't take a bow, 
but neither did he act surprised. He just hustled into the American 
League dugout while the crowd roared. The fans knew that day that this 
kid had everything. He had the arm, sure, everybody had known that all 
along. But now they knew he had the heart, too-a heart like a water- 
melon. "He doesn't scare easy," the bleacher boys said to one another. 
And they knew what they were talking about. 

[195 ] 

For the rest of that colorful inter-league battle, Feller held the folks 
spellbound with his masterful control, his baffling change of pace, and 
above all, that sizzling fast ball. His speed was working. He had it that 
day, just as he's had it so many days since. The ball whistled down off 
the hill, and when it rocketed into the catcher's glove, it made a smack 
you could hear all over the park. Not until the ninth inning did a Na- 
tional Leaguer get a hit off Bob. Then he squelched the rally by striking 
out Johnny Mize of the Cards and Stan Hack of the Cubs to protect the 
AUs 3-1 margin. 

There was no one left that day to dispute that Bob had arrived. There 
was no one to say he was a flash-in-the-pan. When the big Cleveland star 
walked off the mound after striking out Hack in the ninth inning, 
63,000 fans got to their feet and gave him an ovation hell never forget. 
There was respect in every handclap, and Bobby appreciated it. 

"If you put cut/' he told me, recalling the incident, "the folks won't 
let you down, that's for sure." It's a pretty good philosophy. 

In the three big years Feller enjoyed before he enlisted in the U, S. 
Navy, he left no doubt that he was the No. i pitcher in baseball. De- 
spite the fact that the Indians didn't have what it took, Bobby scored 
one personal triumph after another. He became just about the greatest 
single drawing card in the game. If the Saturday afternoon papers an- 
nounced that Feller would pitch for Cleveland on Sunday, you couldn't 
get near the ball park the next day. When he went to the other cities on 
the circuit, a brief announcement that he would be on the mound was 
enough to pack the stadium. 

Bobby developed rapidly as a pitcher. In the beginning he had the fast 
ball, and not much else. His fast one continued to be very much alive, 
still the big weapon in his armory, but he wodked hard on a curve ball. 
Today, most baseball men will tell you that Fellers "jug" is the best in 
the business. Add the high, hard one and the curve to a cute change of 
pace, throw in brilliant control for good measure, and you have the 
equipment of a great pitcher. Which is just what Robert William An- 
drew Feller is. There's not much question but that he already has won a 
place for himself in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. 

Earned run averages are the payoff for a big-league pitcher, and in 
that department Bob doesn't bow to anyone. His ERA was 2.85 in '39, 
2,62 in '40, and 3,15 in "41. In 1946, his first complete season since 
coming out of the Navy, he hung up an earned run average of 2.18. 
That's professional pitching, brother, with a couple of capital P's. 

Bob has become such an institution now that he's the subject of innu- 
merable jokes, some of which may have a foundation in fact and some of 
which may be pure fiction. One of the best is told by Lefty Gomez, the 
former Yankee southpaw, who was always as much at home at a speak- 
er's table as on the mound. 

f i96 ] 

"I was pitching against Cleveland at the Stadium/' says Gomez, "and 
Feller was throwing them up for the Indians* Bobby was fast this day, 
and when you figure how fast he is when he isn't feeling well, you can 
imagine how the ball was hopping this time. Well, the Indians are beat- 
ing us, but the Yankees never quit trying to hit the ball out of the park. 
Me, too." (Gomez, of course, was justly renowned for his inability to hit 
the ball past the plate,) 

"Along about the eight inning/' Lefty continues, "I got up for the 
third or fourth time. I'd been having a bad day. Hadn't had a hit yet, 
which is very unusual for me. Feller gives me a scornful look and winds 
up. He lets it go, and I lean over the plate to watch it. I never saw it. 
It just went TBzzzz? and into the catcher's mitt. The umpire hollered, 
'Strike one!' 

"I dug in and waited for the next one. Same thing. I never saw it. 
'Strike two!' the ump yelled. The ball went back to Feller, and again 
Bob wound up. I was really tense this time, 'cause I don't like to look so 
bad up at the plate. The ball left his hand, but I couldn't follow it. It 
was just a blur of white in the air, and that noise, 'Bzzzz/ The umpire 
screamed in my ear, 'Strike three!' That made me sore. I didn't think he 
saw it either, so I turned around and beefed, *Hey, Mac, didn't that one 
sound a bit low?' " 

Prior to 1948, the only pennant-contending team Feller had the 
pleasure of playing with was the 1940 crew. That year the Tribe was 
tough, with good defensive play and a fair amount of power to back up 
capable pitching. Feller himself won 27 games and lost only 1 1 that year, 
while striking out 261 batters. But that was the year of the famous 
Cleveland player mutiny against Manager Oscar Vitt and the dissen- 
sion in the ranks was too much of a handicap to overcome. 

Feller doesn't talk much about it, but you get the impression that he 
sided with the rest of the mutineers in having about as much affection 
for martinet Ossie Vitt as he'd have for a rattlesnake. I heard him talk 
about the incident once fo a Cleveland sportswriter, though, and his 
comment was revealing. 

"Pretty bush league, wasn't it?" Bob inquired. 

"A little," the writer admitted. 

"About a hundred and one per cent," Feller stated with a growl I 
definitely got the impression that he regretted it now. 

Some of the other Cleveland players recalled when Vitt made the 
rounds of the locker-room after the last game of the 1940 season. He 
hadn't been fired yet, but the Indians had lost the pennant by a hair, 
and everybody knew the player rebellion was the reason why. Since it 
would be difficult to trade away a whole ball club, it was commonly ac- 
cepted that Ossie wouldn't be back next year. 

Ossie went around and shook hands gravely with, all the boys, but 

said nothing. Only when he came to his young shortstop, Lou Boudreau, 
did he speak* His voice was choked, but he said quietly, "Lou, you were 
great/' He repeated it, with a catch in his throat. "Lou, you were great." 

Vitt must have been a better-than-fair judge of men, because good- 
looking Lou Boudreau has been managing the Cleveland Indians ever 
since die season of 1942 and his reputation has grown with the years. 
Not only does he manage the ball club, but he also finds time to play 
the best game of shortstop you can see anywhere in, the major leagues. 
Always close to a .300 hitter, and a classic fielder, Boudreau hit a fat 
.355 as he led the Tribe to the world championship in 1948. He's always 
pressing, always fighting to win, always unwilling to concede defeat 
until the last man is out. 

You don't have to hang around Feller long to discover that he has a 
healthy respect and liking for his manager. The two seem to get along 
fine together, Boudreau never shows any sign of jealousy of his high- 
salaried pitcher, and Feller never exhibits the slightest sign of tempera- 
ment when he's given an order by his year-and-a-half-older boss. 

For a farm boy with a limited education, Feller has remarkable poise, 
and is extremely well-spoken. He speaks up when you talk to him, and 
he says what's on his mind without fumbling for words. That big warm 
grin makes you like him, and so does his obvious interest in what you're 
saying. He's a busy young man, and his name and face are known in all 
the 48 states, but he's courteous to everyone he meets, and he's never too 
busy to make a new friend. 

Feller did his most important personality sales job back in 1940, when 
he visited Rollins College in Florida with a friend. The friend intro- 
duced him to an attractive co-ed named Virginia Winther, whose home 
was in Waukegan, Illinois. For over two years Bobby courted Miss 
Winther in the only way open to a constantly traveling professional 
ballplayer by telephone and telegraph. They were planning marriage 
when die shock of Pearl Harbor hit the nation. 

Two days after the Japanese bombs had fallen on the naval station of 
Pearl Harbor, Bobby Feller enlisted in the United States Navy. He was 
actually swom in on December n, 1941, four days after the terrible day 
that marked the start of the war. You don't have to write any glowing 
statements about Feller's war record. It speaks for itself. 

Bob got his boot training at Norfolk, Virginia, in a Navy physical 
education school, but he got tired of that in a hurry. He volunteered for 
gunnery training, telling his superiors he wanted sea duty. And Bob did 
this without speaking through newspapers, without making any noises 
like a martyr. He just did what he thought was right, and did it quiedy. 
It's easy to say that big-name athletes aren't the kind of men to get ex- 
cited about fighting the dirty end of a war. Feller did. His record is as 
proud as that of any less-renowned fighting man. 

[ 198 ] 

In January, 1943, two major changes occurred in Bob's life. On the 
eleventh day of the month, his father died. That was a tremendous blow 
to young Feller. It was no ordinary father-son relationship that he en- 
joyed with his dad. From his youngest days, Boh and his father had 
been pals. They liked the same things, thought the same way, and got a 
kick out of each other's company. His father long had been Bob's chief 
counselor. It was a sad young man who went home on leave to Van 
Meter for the funeral. He helped bury his father from the fine new 
house which his baseball earnings had built. 

On the sixteenth day of the month, convinced there was no point in 
delaying the wedding further, Bob married Virginia Winther, At first 
the young couple thought of waiting until the war ended, but now Bob 
felt they'd be wiser to marry right away. The wedding took place in the 
bride's home town, Waukegan. The young Fellers have two boys, 
Stephen and Marty. 

Rated a Chief Specialist after his gunnery training, Bob went to sea 
with the battleship Alabama in December, 1942. On his first cruise he 
saw Newfoundland, Iceland, England, and Scotland. He came back to 
the States for five days in August, 1943. Then he shipped out for the 

Bob was in Pacific waters close to two years, crossing the Equator 28 
times unless he lost count somewhere along the way. You may recall 
seeing occasional pictures of him playing in pickup ball games in the 
New Hebrides or the Fiji Islands. His ship hit those places. It also hit 
Bougainville, the Marshalls, the Gilberts (including Tarawa), Truk in 
the Carolines, Saipan and Guam in the Marianas, and the Philippines, 
when the boys were pitching lead instead of baseballs. 

Bob was in charge of a 40-millimeter quadruple-mount anti-aircraft 
gun on the Alabama's deck. Any sailor will tell you a job like that is 
hardly a haven when enemy planes are swooping down. But youll have 
to get somebody else to tell you, because Bob won't. Hell tell you about 
the big ball games he starred in, but he won't tell you he won the war. 

Now and then Bob got a chance to play ball, but not in any organized 
competition. He never performed in the Hawaiian circuit, where so 
many big-leaguers enjoyed comfortable berths during die war. His base- 
ball, such as it was, was played in places like Ulithi and Majuro, tiny 
coral rocks in the vast expanse of the South Pacific. 

When he got back to the States, in 1945, Bob was sent to the Great 
Lakes Training Station, and put in charge of the baseball team. That 
was his first cinch job of the war, and nobody stepped forward to say he 
hadn't earned it. Bob was discharged at Chicago on August 22, 1945. 
He immediately rejoined the Cleveland team. 

"One of the finest things that ever happened to me," he says, "was the 
civic reception Cleveland gave me the day I came back. About a thou- 

f i99 ] 

sand people showed up at the reception, which was held on August 23, 
an open date for the hall club. It made me feel good all over. So good, in 
fact, that I beat Hal Newhouser and Detroit, 4-2, in my first game the 
next night." 

In his return game, Bob gave up four hits and struck out 12 men. No 
wonder the Cleveland papers let themselves go in columns of glad re- 
joicing. Their big man was back. Now maybe the Indians could pull 
themselves out of their doldrums. Bob finished out the season, winning 
five games and losing three. It wasn't a rave performance, but when you 
figure that he just came out of a four-year retirement, it makes you sit 
up and take notice. 

After the season Bob went to Florida with his wife for a belated 
honeymoon. He got a good rest, and felt ready to go. Before the Indians 
assembled for Spring training, though, he ran a free baseball school in 
Florida for war veterans. Hugh Mulcahy, Bucky Walters, Tommy 
Bridges, Buddy Hassett, Charley Keller, and Rollie Hemsley were 
among the ballplayers who helped him in the venture. Over 1 50 young 
veterans enrolled as pupils. Bob got the Tampa Chamber of Commerce 
to find housing for the boys, talked a couple of sporting goods companies 
into donating the necessary equipment, and made the school a rousing 
success. He collected no money for his work, but he got a big pile of 
satisfaction out of it. 

Bob is always in there pitching to do something for somebody. At 
Great Lakes he met an ambitious young pitcher named Dick Rozek, a 
southpaw with very little experience. Bob took him under his wing, 
talked the Indians into giving him a contract, and set about starting him 
on his way to a major-league career. Last Spring you could see Bob at 
the training camp most every day, in a huddle with his protege*, telling 
him how it was done. The impressive thing about this side of Feller is he 
never makes any fuss about his acts of generosity. He just goes ahead 
and helps people; he doesn't stop to attract a crowd while he's about it. 

Every year Bob pays for the support of one student at Morningside 
College in Iowa. This little gesture costs him about $1,000 a year and 
how many other big-league ballplayers can you name who spend that 
land of dough because they think they ought to help less-fortunate peo- 
ple? The legend that ballplayers are cheap definitely doesn't apply to 
Feller. He lives well, pays his way, and gives his share away. He just 
happens to be a nice guy. 

A lot of people said as early as 1946 that Feller was through. He had 
his ears pinned back in Spring exhibition games and the word was 
passed around lie didn't have it any more. How wrong they were is a 
matter of record. The fireball kid from Iowa hurled 26 victories for the 
Indians, who were something less than world-beaters. True, he lost 15 
games, but men who know the score just shake their heads and say he 

f 200 ] 

could have put most of them Into the win column if the team had given 
him a little more help. 

This is something else Feller doesn't weep about. You never hear him 
griping that he wasted the best years of his baseball life on a bum club. 
Nor does he cry on your shoulder that he got a poor shake not being able 
to pitch in a World Series until 1948, when the smoke had curled away 
from his fast ball and he could no longer overpower the batters. 

Bullet Bob came up with just about the greatest game of his life early 
in 1946 when he invaded Yankee Stadium with the Indians on April 30. 
It was to be Bob's fourth start of the season. He had won his first, then 
lost two in a row. The "Feller-is-through" boys were having a field day. 

There were only 38,112 fans in the Stadium, not a big crowd -for a 
Feller game. The persistent propaganda that the big right-hander had 
lost his stuff must have had some effect. But it wasn't bothering Bob. It 
just made him more determined to show what he could do. The Indian 
ace is a proud young man. He doesn't like his name to be kicked around 
by people who don't know what they're talking about. 

One after another the vaunted Yankee sluggers stepped up to the 
plate. Joe DiMaggio, Charley Keller, Tommy Henrich, Phil Rizzuto, 
George Stirnweiss, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and Nick Etten were play- 
ing for New York, with Floyd Bevens on the mound. For nine innings 
Bob strode to the rubber and took the wraps off his fast one. He fooled 
the Yanks with his wide-breaking curve, and he teased them with his . 
change of pace. They didn't get a single hit off him, and in the first half 
of the ninth his catcher, Frankie Hayes, hit a home run to give him a 
i-o lead. For the second time in his major-league career, Rapid Robert 
fashioned himself a no-hitter. 

All over the United States the next day, sportswriters were apologizing 
for having written that Bob was through. Everybody pointed the finger 
at everybody else. "He. said it/' was the password. And in their stories 
the newsmen wrote of how young Bob fogged them in there, of how he 
handled himself with men on base, of how he refused to let the pres- 
sure get him down. "If this boy doesn't belong with the greatest," one 
scribe wrote, "the values will have to be revised." 

Bob himself says that was his greatest game. <c l never was any better," 
he told me simply. "I had everything that day." The Yanks certainly will 
agree to that. Six New Yorkers got on base in that historic game, five on 
walks and one on an error by Les Fleming, the Cleveland first-baseman. 
Fleming muffed Stimweiss* drag bunt down the first-base line in the last 
half of the ninth inning. You can imagine how the crowd sagged when 
that happened! 

You know how it is when you're watching a pitcher move closer and 
closer to a no-hitter. It doesn't matter which team you want to win; 
you've got to get behind that pitcher. It happens to everybody, and it 

f 201 ] 

happened to the folks at the Stadium that day. They roared when Hayes 
hit that ninth-inning homer for Feller, and they didn't want anybody 
spoiling things now. 

When the stocky Cleveland first-sacker kicked Stirnweiss* bunt 
around, everyone in the stands groaned. Bob was so close! Then they 
broke out into cheers as, for the first time in Stadium history, the public 
address system was used to inform the fans of the official scorer's ruling. 
Fleming was charged with an error on the play. The no-hitter was still 

But Feller wasn't out of the woods yet. He still had to get three men 
out to end the game. He stared down off the rubber at Tommy Henrich, 
the tough Yankee right-fielder. In the hole was Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, 
and on deck was Charley Keller. What a cheerful prospect for a pitcher 
trying to protect a no-hitter! 

Henrich sacrificed Stirnweiss to second. That put a man in scoring 
position, with one out. Big Joe DiMaggio stepped up. The count went 
to three-and-two on Joe, and tension mounted through the stands. Still 
Feller worked calmly, with no fuss, taking neither more nor less time 
than usual. He chewed his charcoal gum steadily, kept a weather eye on 
Stirnweiss at second and fogged them in there. DiMag laced the payoff 
pitch on the ground to Lou Boudreau at short. Lou pegged to first for 
the putout, but Stirnweiss scrambled down to third on the play. Two 
away, and Charley Keller up. King Kong took a called strike, swung and 
missed for strike two, then dribbled a grounder to Ray Mack at second 
for the last out of the game. Feller had done it again. 

Trying to make his way across the field to the Cleveland dugout, Bob 
was besieged by well-wishers. Reporters, photographers, and all the rest 
jammed the Cleveland dressing room to shake his hand, take his picture, 
and ask how he felt. Bob wore a mile-wide grin, and tried to take a 
shower, but it was hard to move a step. 

Someone reminded Feller that, according to the grapevine, he wasn't 
supposed to be any good any more. That got Bobby a little peeved. 
"Look," he said in a positive voice, "when the time comes that I don't 
have it any more, I'll be the first to know about it." 

The reporters in the crowd noticed that Bob constantly referred to the 
great game Frankie Hayes had played. "Not only did he hit that homer/' 
Bob reminded the writers, "but he also caught a wonderful game/' Fel- 
ler also heaped praise upon Boudreau for making a great play on a ball 
Stirnweiss hit through the middle in the first inning. Lou, crossing sec- 
ond, fielded the ball and made the throw for the put-out even though he 
fell flat on his face. 

Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds is the only other active 
pitcher with two no-hitters to his credit. Vander Meer, of course, hurled 
his two perfect games in succession back in 1938. He blanked the Braves 

[202 ] 

and the Dodgers in two straight mound appearances. Feller's no-hitter 
against the Yanks was the first time the New York club was held with- 
out a hit since 1919 when another Cleveland hurler, Ray Caldwell, 
pulled the stunt. 

Feller doesn't go around weeping about it but it's obvious that his 
1948 troubles still weigh heavily on his mind. The booing he took for 
withdrawing from the All-Star Game, his inability to reach the 2o-game 
mark in victories, and his failure to win a game in the World Series as 
the Indians beat the Boston Braves, are not forgotten. He's hungry to 
make up for them, to make the people who like to say he's finished eat 
their words. He especially wants to win a Series game. The memory of 
that two-hitter he lost to Johnny Sain in the '48 Series, opener is fresh in 
his mind. 

He thinks he can do it. He honestly believes he has several first-class 
years as a starting pitcher ahead of him and then several more as a valu- 
able relief pitcher. And he'll tell you he's being conservative when he 
says that. 

Bob has a mind of his own when he's out there on the rubber, and he 
doesn't blindly accept whatever signal the catcher gives him. If he thinks 
the batter is set for his fast one, and the catcher signals for it, Bob will 
shake him off without a qualm. 'When I throw that ball," he says, Tin 
convinced it's the right pitch. Ill shake off the catcher every time I don't 
agree with him." Grinning, Bob sums it up by saying, "I may be wrong, 
but Fm never in doubt." 

For hobbies Bob plays table tennis, golf, and billiards, and goes in for 
trapshooting. He loves to fly and owns a light sport plane. 

Since their marriage Bob and his pretty wife have never had a real 
home. They've led a vaudeville existence. But Bob recently bought a 
tract of land in Grand Prairie, Texas. And he has now completed a spa- 
cious, permanent home there. Why in Grand Prairie, Texas? 'Well," 
says Bob, "it's wide open country, a great place to raise kids, and the land 
is self-sustaining." Which sounds like a package of good reasons. 

I asked Bob if he expected to invest some money in baseball, either in 
a minor or a major-league team. "No," he told me, "why should I invest 
a lot of money to make a little money, when I can still make a lot of 
money without investing a cent?" He admitted he once was interested 
in buying the Denver, Colorado, club, but said he changed his mind 
after making a thorough study of the project. 

"After a while," he says, "I hope to build a first class restaurant in 
Cleveland, and devote a lot of time to it And I'm thinking of going into 
partnership with a friend of mine in an aviation corporation. That's the 
business to be in these days." 

Despite the variety of business enterprises which have attracted Bob, 
he doesn't employ a business manager. "That's why I'm so busy all the 

[ 203 ] 

time/* lie said. "I have to do it all myself." Then he stopped and thought 
and added, "Not that it makes much difference. If I had a business man- 
ager, I'd have to spend all my time watching him/* 

Because his career always has heen so closely allied with the strikeout, 
Bob feels a great deal of pride in his 1946 major-league strikeout record. 
He really extended himself, going down the homestretch, in his great 
bid to overtake the old Rube Waddell record of 343 strikeouts. And he 
made itv with five to spare, chalking up 348 before the final gong closed 
the season. The White Sox were his favorite victims. He got 66 of the 
Chicago boys. The Senators and Yanks were next in line. He whiffed 59 
Senators and 56 Yanks during the year, Russ Savage of the A's, who 
fanned for Feller eight times, was the chief individual victim. Barney 
McCoskey of the A's was the only major-league regular Bob didn't get 
at least once. 

Bob has hung up 10 or more strikeouts in 45 games since he first 
walked out to the mound for the Indians. That's a remarkable record. 
Speaking of records, Bob says, 'Til miss a lot of them because of the 
war." But quickly he adds, "I have no regrets about the war, though. 
Every time I go out to pitch I think about how lucky I was to come back 
with all my limbs. I did what I thought I should, and you'll never hear 
me cry about it/* 

Along with his desire to win a World Series game, Bob confesses to 
one other ambition. This one, however, is less likely to come about. Dis- 
cussing the records of old-time pitchers, Bob said, "You know, some day 
I'd love to take one of those old dead balls, rough it up the way they did 
in those days, and throw it in there for nine innings. I'd like to see, just 
for my own satisfaction, how I'd make out/' 

Most modem baseball experts agree it would be murder for the 

Sometimes Bob's multitudinous activities tire him out. Late one night 
he leaned out of a hotel room window and said to me, "What a life. 
Tomorrow 1 have to cut two records, meet a couple of writers for inter- 
views, sign two side contracts and see some business people about a 
couple of new deals I've got cooking/' He straightened up, stretched, and 
laughed. "Oh, yeah. If I find time I'm supposed to pitch a game of ball, 
too." Shaking his head, he said, "You have to make it while you can. 
Let's get some sleep/* 

Bob's busy mind finds an outlet in normal high spirits, though. One 
night as we drove along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood we passed two 
cars with their front ends tangled in a slight wreck. Rolling down the 
window, Bob yelled in a fake feminine voice, "I had the right of way!'* 
Then, changing to a deep growl, he bawled, "Yeah, and you also got a 
fender in your radiator!'* Closing the window, he leaned back satisfied. 

A few minutes later he was enjoying himself hugely talking about the 

[ 204 ] 

hasty writers who watched him getting hanged around in exhibition 
games in the Spring, then dashed to their typewriters to compose sad la- 
ments reading, "there's bad news from the West tonight. Rapid Robert 
Feller hasn't got it any more/' 

Shaking his head, and grinning that big farm-boy grin, Bob said, 
'They ought to know better. But I suppose it's all part of the business/' 

And nothing that's part of the business has escaped Bob. He hasn't 
missed a trick. For instance, he's one big-leaguer who doesn't conduct 
his contract negotiations with his employers on a hit-or-miss basis. 'We 
understand each other," he says of his relationship with the Cleveland 
team. 'The club always has treated me fairly, and I always do my best 
for the club. That's the only way to go about it." 

Going into his contract technique a little more deeply, Bob revealed, 
T keep a close check on every penny the club makes from Spring to 
Fall. Then I estimate carefully how much of that money they made out 
of my pitching. When it comes time to talk about next year's pay check, 
I have all the figures down. And I'm not usually very far off, either." 

The big pitcher, a successful radio artist, columnist, author, general 
business man, and organizer of a baseball barnstorming expedition that 
he turned into a personal gold mine, laughed and concluded dryly, 
"Heck, they can't lad me. I'm in the business myself." 



WHEN he came to the New York Giants as a player-manager 
in 1902, Johnny McGraw was a slim, runty, Big-jawed, trucu- 
lent, obstinate, and ambitious young man. The day was July 9, 
and the ball club was in the cellar. 

On June 3, 1932, John Joseph McGraw left the Giants just as he had 
found them in last place* He was then almost 60 years old, a corpulent, 
three-chinned, cantankerous, sick old man who, during 30 turbulent 
years, had proven beyond all doubt that he was one of the greatest mana- 
gers the game of baseball has ever known. 

None of the Giants of today ever played for McGraw, but he still 
seems to belong to the present. Hardly a day passes without his name 
being mentioned in the clubhouse or up in the press box. He belongs to 
the Polo Grounds the way Babe Ruth does to Yankee Stadium. Old-time 
players and sportswriters will tell you that when a Giant play misfires, 
they hear the ghost of McGraw bellowing, inspiring, and profane. 

The name "Giants" would mean little today if it hadn't been for 
McGraw. They were just another New York ball club when he swag- 
gered on the scene. He made the Giants. In fact he was the Giants, 
responsible for everything the name conveys, gigantic hate and tenor, 
love and respect. For 30 years, McGraw's preposterous personality and 
baseball genius were more dazzling than the deeds of his greatest stars, 
There were reasons for calling him "The Little Napoleon," No manager 
ever dominated the diamond in more complete and dictatorial fashion. 

'With my team, I'm an absolute czar/' McGraw snapped in 1914, "I 
order plays and they obey. If they don't, I fine them." 

Snarling and screaming, driving his players, brawling with umpires, 
insulting rival managers and club owners, using his fists as well as the 
most brilliant brain in baseball, McGraw smashed his way to 10 Na- 
tional League pennants and three world championships. He flaunted his 
victories before rival clubs and fans. He took his defeats with all the 
graciousness of an enraged bulldog. 

f 205 ] 

"McGraw was sometimes a terrible sight on that bench when we were 
losing/' said Travis Jackson, former Giant coach and the last of Mc- 
Graw's great shortstops. "His neck would swell up and his face would 
turn purple/' 

One day in 1928, McGraw, Jackson, and several other players were 
leaving Wrigley Field, Chicago, after dropping a close one to their 
hated rivals, the Cubs. The stormy manager was in one of his more 
furious nioods, enraged by the decision of an umpire. He was absolutely 
blind with anger, as Jackson described it, and walked direcdy in the path 
of a taxicab. He was knocked flat. The players and a cop picked Mc- 
Graw up. His face was contorted with pain. 

<( Do you want to prefer charges?" the officer asked, 

"Hell, no!" McGraw yelled. 'It was my fault!" 

Still fuming, Mac went on to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates. 
Not until he returned to New York, several days later, did he discover 
that his leg was broken! 

Talking to the men who played for McGraw, you discover that either 
they liked him tremendously, or they detested him. Hank Gowdy, an- 
other ex-Giant coach who was playing for McGraw as early as 1910, 
called him the greatest manager of all time and one of the finest men 
he had ever known. Travis Jackson felt the same way and both spoke of 
him as "Mr. McGraw/* reverently, as though John J. were hearing every 
word they said. Frankie Frisch, who left the Giants in a huff after en- 
during McGraw's cruel tongue-lashings for as long as he could, would 
not talk about his former manager. His only words were, 'Well, he won 
ball games, that's all 111 say/' 

McGraw, an unforgiving man himself, would have enjoyed the en- 
mity in Frankie's tone. He respected men who could hold a towering 
grudge down through the years. He was a man who needed relentless 
enemies as much as he needed staunch friends. McGraw could be gener- 
ous, courageous, and lovable, as well as tyrannical, abusive, deceitful, 
and grossly unsportsmanlike. 

John J. (Muggsy) McGraw was not the stuff of which fiction-book 
heroes are made. He was too wholly human, irascible, and changeable in 
character. And yet, no man gave more to baseball. He was to our na- 
tional game what the Wright brothers were to the airplane industry, 
what D. W, Griffith was to movies, what Pasteur was to microbe-hunt- 
ing. McGraw was a pioneer, an innovator, an exciting, creative ball- 
player and manager. He gave us the hit-and-run play that revolutionized 
baseball. He developed the use of the bunt to its now important status. 
He was the first manager to hire a ballplayer for the sole duty of being 
a pinch-hitter. 

The stunts McGraw pulled drove opposing players and managers to 
distraction. He changed baseball from a mere contest of power and skill 


to psychological warfare and mental adventure. No modern manager, 
not even Leo Durocher, would dare take the chances John J. McGraw 
took to win ball games. He loved to tell about these risky high-jinks, to 
gloat over the way he outsmarted his rivals. 

"We were playing St. Louis one day," he would relate, "and we were 
five runs behind in the ninth inning. With nobody out, we got two men 
on base. The next batter hit a long single, which would have scored 
Murray from second base. As Murray rounded third and started for 
home, I waved him back. Now why did I do that?" McGraw would 
pause dramatically. "Til tell you why. Because I wanted those bases 
loaded, I knew what effect that would have on the pitcher/' 

That day, as it was most of the time, die McGraw strategy was right 
on the beam. Three shouting, dancing, gesticulating Giant base-runners 
caused the Cardinal hurler to blow sky high and the Giants romped 
away with the ball game. 

In his own peculiar way, McGraw had a tremendous love for his ball- 
players. He paid them high salaries. He was the first manager to shep- 
herd them into the best hotels in town, insisting in the early rowdy days 
of baseball that his "Giants" were gendemen when not on a ball field. 
He hovered over his charges in watchdog fashion, behaving toward some 
like a Boy Scout leader, toward others like a tough Army top-kick. 

Christy Mathewson, in later years, credited McGraw with winning 
pennants almost single-handedly. "Every play in the 1904 season was 
directed from the bench," Matty once wrote. "He took a group of young 
and inexperienced players and master-minded them into champions." 

For a manager to direct a team from the bench was an unheard-of 
procedure in those days. McGraw played third base for the Giants 
during his first year as manager, but during a crisis in a game he'd leave 
the field and guide the team from the bench by signals. Fans and players 
on the other team rode him viciously for leaving the diamond. They 
hooted that he was yellow and a quitter. "John J. McGraw never knew 
the meaning of the word fear," Mathewson explained long afterwards. 
"He knew he could pull the team through from the bench, concentrate 
better, see more of what was going on. And he missed nothing." 

McGraw's method of playing ball involved the most complicated ar- 
rangement of signals ever devised. He claimed to have a set of signs that 
governed every action that could possibly happen on a ball field. "Mc- 
Graw, with those lightning and mysterious signals, can move all nine 
men on a diamond more rapidly than most managers can move one," an 
admiring sportswriter remarked in 1905. The words were not well re- 
ceived. McGraw was scorched by other scribes who believed he was 
ruining the game by turning his players into automatons. 

"Do what I tell you and 111 take the blame if it goes wrong!" the di- 
minutive spitfire would yell at his Giants, 

[ 208 ] 

In most cases, lie did take the rap. That's why he'd burn like a live 
coal whenever his team lost. Once, after a guess had backfired and the 
Giants had been drubbed, McGraw stormed into a bar near the Polo 
Grounds, downed a few quick ones, and hurled a dozen or so bottles 
against the wall. After he had calmed down, he handed the bartender 
$50 and told him to forget it. 

McGraw had an absolute contempt for most ballplayers as thinkers. 
Christy Mathewson was one of the few he allowed to make his own 
decisions* The magnificent Matty never let him down, piling victory on 
victory. The big right arm, rising and falling in the World Series of 
1905, pitched three shutouts against the A's to hang up a record that still 
stands. But again, it was McGraw who deserves credit for giving base- 
ball one of its finest moundsmen. When the young manager took over 
the Giants, Christy Mathewson was playing first base. McGraw saw 
Matty throw a couple of balls, hustled him to the mound, and kept him 

It has been written that McGraw, off the playing field, was cold and 
distant toward his men, and seldom fraternized with them. It Is one of 
the many half-truths penned about him. McGraw seldom had any half- 
way emotions toward any man in Giant uniform. He either liked him a 
great deal, or disliked him heartily. Off the diamond, he was extremely 
friendly with players he personally liked, played bridge with them, in- 
vited them to parties, treated them in lavish and magnificent fashion. 
Those he did not like, he avoided. But, during games, he was strictly 
impartial The devil himself could play ball for McGraw if he had the 
spirit and skill Mac demanded. Some near-devils did. 

There was a saying in the old days, "If you have a bad actor, trade 
him to McGraw/' The Giant authoritarian had a reputation for straight- 
ening out the rambunctious young rowdies other managers found too 
difficult to handle. A fire-eating, rebellious, unmanageable ballplayer was 
always a challenge to McGraw. One of the classic non-conformists was 
"Bugs" Raymond, whom Ring Lardner immortalized in fiction. 

Bugs, when right, was one of the most terrific twirlers of his time, 
tossing a spitball that was almost impossible to hit. Mr. Raymond was 
also equally adept at tossing drinks down his tonsils, eating tons of indi- 
gestible food, indulging in madcap stunts, and becoming the life of 
several parties during the course of a single evening. McGraw signed 
him up in 1909 and Bugs, inspired by Mac's advice and impressed by 
his threats, promised to reform. 

From Spring training at Marlin, Texas, to the Polo Grounds in New 
York, Bugs led McGraw a merry chase. The reporters had a field day 
scribbling about the capers of their beloved hero. They infuriated Mc- 
Graw, who was striving to reform Raymond. 

Depriving Bugs of money and forbidding Giant players to lend him 

[ 209 J 

any was useless, Raymond could always tMnk up some hilarious ruse 
that would let him continue his night-time adventuring, McGraw even 
hired a detective to shadow the slap-happy spitballer. One morning after 
receiving a report from the private eye, Mac called in the newspaper 
reporters and held a "kangaroo court" with the bleary-eyed Bugs as the 

"Look at him!" McGraw railed. "You all heard Raymond promise me 
he was going to reform!" 

Bugs insisted he had spent an innocent night in his room. So Mc- 
Graw read aloud the detective's report, which showed that Raymond had 
spent the evening in various saloons, consuming 48 beers, almost a peck 
of pretzels, and eight Bermuda onions. Bugs heard the indictment to the 
end. Then he said indignantly, "Mac, that fellow you had followin' me 
is lyin'. I never ate no eight onions. I only had three!" 

McGraw's sense of humor got the better of him and he joined with 
the reporters, who were doubled over in laughter. The Giant manager 
kept Bugs on the club until it was hopeless. The end came one day at 
the Polo Grounds and it was one of the funniest incidents in baseball 

Rube Marquard, who was pitching, began to weaken and McGraw 
sent Raymond to the bullpen to warm up. The Giant bullpen, in the old 
Polo Grounds, was behind the bleachers. Bugs sauntered out of sight. 
The next inning, the opposing team began to lambast Marquard. Mc- 
Graw sent the batboy after Raymond, A few minutes later, the boy came 
back alone. 

"I can't find him/' he said. "He's nowhere in sight/' 

The batboy was sent out again, this time accompanied by a player. 
They found Bugs in a saloon on Eighth Avenue across from the ball 
park, happily downing his third slug of rye. He had traded the shiny 
new baseball McGraw had given him to the bartender for the drinks. 
McGraw, furious but desperate, sent him to the mound. Bugs wound 
up, unsteadily, and threw the first ball over the catcher's head, allowing 
a run to score. 

The enraged McGraw chased Bugs out of the Polo Grounds. "You 
blinkety-blankety, no good bum!" he screamed. "I never want to see you 
around here again!" And he didn't Bugs never returned. 

But for every failure and there were very few McGraw trained and 
developed hundreds of magnificent ballplayers. Over 200 major-leaguers 
learned the science of baseball from this determined genius. At one time, 
almost half the managers in the two major leagues were products of 
McGraw's skillful tutelage men like Billy Southworth, Art Fletcher, 
Casey Stengel, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Bill McKechnie, Frankie Frisch, 
and Bill Terry, to name just a few. 

McGraw led his men like a general. He spotted their weaknesses with 

[ 240 ] 

an unerring eye. He used drastic and often cruel methods to change 
them from average performers to stars. The way he taught Josh Devore 
to hit left-handed pitchers was a brilliant bit of psychology. Devore, who 
could belt right-handers with the greatest of ease, was scared witless 
every time he faced a port-side hurler. He would flinch and step in the 
bucket. One day. Josh was about to go to bat against a speedy St Louis 
southpaw. "Josh/' McGraw barked. "You go up there and let him hit 

"I don't know about that," Devore said, fearfully. 

"If you don't/' McGraw said, firmly, "Ml cost you 10 dollars/' 

The manager knew Devore was very close with a buck. Josh edged 
to the plate and looked back at the flint-eyed McGraw pleadingly. Then 
he took a deep breath and shoved his hip out in front of the pitcher's fast 
one. The ball struck him and he trotted down to first, grinning from ear 
to ear. When he finally got back to the bench, he was still smiling, "Say, 
Mac," he said, "that fellow couldn't break a pane of glass. It sure gets me 
sore to think I was afraid of him!" 

And from that day on, Devore was murderous against left-handed 

Whenever McGraw was chastised for putting the slug on umpires or 
slandering rivals, he would swear vengeance and scheme relentlessly 
until his persecutor was vanquished. But he expected his ballplayers to 
obey him blindly and accept his harsh discipline without complaint 
Most of them did. In 1915, he slapped a $2; fine on Sammy Strang for 
hitting a home run! 

"Go up there and lay down a bunt," he ordered Strang. 

With two men on base and nobody down, Sammy measured the first 
ball pitched and hoisted it over the left-field wall He rounded the bases, 
smiling like a fat cat, and trotted to the bench. 

"I told you to bunt," McGraw growled. 

"It was right in there, Mac," Strang said. "It floated up there so pretty 
I just hadda take a poke at it." 

"You did, huh?" McGraw said, hody. "Well, I hope it was worth it, 
because it's gonna cost you 25 bucks!" 

Such stern measures brought on the ire of many fans and caused 
the sportswriters of the time to belabor the Giant overseer in print. They 
seldom did it in person. There was always the danger that McGraw 
might force them to swallow some teeth. Few dared argue with him 
about baseball. 

"He believed he knew more about the game than any man alive/' an 
ex-Giant told me. "And he did. Whenever you hear talk about one of 
today's managers being great, someone will always compare him with 
McGraw. But nobody comes close to him. I know, sonny, because I 
knew John McGraw." 

It annoyed McGraw that baseball was not always considered the most 
important thing in American life, on a par with the scientific discoveries 
that were changing our nation and the policies that were being formed 
in the White House. To him, baseball was more than a fine sport and a 
game to amuse fans. It was a momentous, serious, day-to-day struggle to 
which he brought all his emotion and an ever-working, inventive brain. 

Rival players often swore that McGraw knew more about their foibles 
and weak points than he did about even his own players. The ace Cardi- 
nal pitcher, Harry Sallee, gave the Giants many innings of misery until 
Mac's keen eye ferreted out the southpaw's one weakness. He broke 
Sallee's heart in the first inning of the Giants' next game with the Cards. 

"I want every man to bunt and keep on bunting/' McGraw told his 
team before the game started. Toke 'em right near Sallee." 

The Giants thought their manager's mind had jumped the track, but 
they followed his orders. The New Yorkers scored 13 runs in the first 
inning! McGraw had discovered what other managers had failed to 
notice that Sallee couldn't field bunts. 

When Babe Adams first broke into the majors, he was considered in- 
vincible. McGraw's men licked him the first time he took the mound 
against them. "The Litde Napoleon" used strange psychology that after- 
noon. "Wait him out/' he told his players. "Wait him out every time/' 
The Giants waited. They worked Adams almost to exhaustion, fouling 
off the good ones, making him heave a minimum of four or five balls to 
each batter. The score was tied in the i3th inning, when the alert 
McGraw saw Adams drop his arm to his side in disgust and weariness. 

"Now, hit away/' the Giant manager ordered his batters. 

The Giants did, and they broke up the ball game. 

One of McGraw's most frequent boasts was that he had no stars on 
his ball club. It wasn't true. Diamond celebrities like Mathewson, Rube 
Marquard, George Burns, Benny Kauff, Ross Youngs, Hack Wilson, 
Carl Hubbell, Frankie Frisch, and Mel Ott were only a few of the 
mighty players developed by McGraw. What the Giant boss meant was 
that he never catered to the star system, but strove to develop all-around, 

Giant batters were drilled in hitting behind the runner to any field. 
They were taught "change of pace." In the middle of a game, the entire 
team might suddenly be ordered to switch from trying to knock the 
cover off the ball to bunting. The Giants and their rivals were always 
kept on edge in a McGraw ball game. They never knew what Mac 
would think up next. 

It is doubtful if such colorful, unpredictable, and show-stealing play- 
ers as the immortal Babe Ruth or today's temperamental Ted Williams 
would have lasted very long under the aegis of McGraw. Williams, like 
the Babe, is much too individualistic and hot-tempered to have endured 

f 212 J 

many tangles with McGraw. But McGraw knew the Babe. He knew 
Ruth as a ballplayer bette* than anyone in the game, with the exception 
of Miller Muggins. It was McGraw's careful, brilliant analysis of the 
Ruth personality that caused Babe's downfall in the 1922 World Series. 

Mac had a reason for going after the Babe. Ruth inadvertently caused 
one of McGraw's predictions to backfire. At the close of the 1918 sea- 
son, in a magazine interview, McGraw stated somewhat bombastically, 
"Me and Wee Willie Keeler drove the big men out of baseball. Our hit- 
and-run technique made the game flashier and faster and youVe seen the 
last of the home-run kings, which is a good thing for baseball." 

That was the Giants* "Miracle Manager" speaking, the man whose 
past predictions had made him seem infallible. But he hadn't taken into 
account that big hulk who pitched for the Red Sox in 1918 and played 
games in the outfield. Ruth hit only u circuit blows in '18, a warm-up 
for the following year. In 1919, as an outfielder in 130 games, the Babe 
smashed 29 homers, an unbelievable feat that fans considered would 
never again be equalled. His heroic bludgeoning brought the home run 
back into the limelight and made McGraw's pre-season oration look ri- 

By 1922, when the Giants faced the Yanks in the World Series, 
Ruth's sensational whacks had proved McGraw very much in error. And 
the fiery Giant manager had other reasons for not beaming at the advent 
of the era of the Babe. Until Ruth, McGraw had undoubtedly been the 
most exciting figure in baseball, the most controversial, the man who 
had changed the game most. To McGraw, at that time, Ruth was some- 
thing of a freak and an upstart. 

The Series dawned with the Yanks heavily favored. But the Pasha of 
the Polo Grounds had worked out a special plan for handling Ruth. He 
knew the Babe expected to be treated with great respect, even awe, by 
the Giant pitchers and players. Ruth was riding high. He felt sure that 
McGraw's moundsmen wouldn't dare feed him anything but bad balls 
and walks. 

As the King of Swat minced to the plate for the first time in that 
Series, McGraw rose from the bench and bellowed at his pitcher, Art 

"Lay it over for him, Art!" the Giant manager yelled in a voice that 
could be heard in the bleachers. "Cut the plate for him! This Kg ox 
can't hit!" 

Ruth looked toward the Giant bench in amazement. Coming from the 
greatest manager in baseball, this was a terrible insult. The Babe's ex- 
pression took on embarrassment and anger. Art Nehf tossed him a slow 
curve that spliced the dish. The over-anxious Bam almost broke his back 
trying to hit it out of the park. He missed it by a foot. 

McGraw grew more sarcastic. "Tell him where you're going to throw 

[213 ] 

the next one, Art!" he jeered, "Then put it right there! Hell never 
see it!" 

Nehf , following McGraw's instructions, informed Ruth, that he was 
going to toss another one right over the same spot. He did and the 
fuming Ruth swung and missed* On the third pitch, Ruth struck out 
and returned to the dugout enormously disgusted. 

The gleeful McGraw kept up the humiliating, abusive tirades against 
Ruth all through the Series, and Bahe got only two hits in 17 times at 
bat for his lowest World Series average on record, .118. Many years 
later, the Bambino revealed that McGraw's taunts had gotten under his 
skin and were chiefly responsible for his failure to connect in Ruthian 

It is also an amazing fact that McGraw called every single pitch his 
hurlers threw in that World Series! The Yanks and even McGraw later 
admitted this had a far superior team. But the Giants had McGraw. 

When McGraw came to the Giants, there wasn't a manager on the , 
horizon who could touch him when it came to baseball savvy and tactics. 
Fred Clarke, the sparkling player-manager of the pile-driving Pirates, 
was the most pesky of the lot Clarke, to use a ring expression, was a 
"cutie" one who could concoct tricky devices to pull his team out of a 
hole. The managerial duels between Clarke and McGraw were always 
spiked with thrills, heightened by the fact that McGraw was hated in 
Pittsburgh by the fans and was also carrying on a no-holds-barred feud 
with Barney Dreyfuss, the Pirate owner. 

In a game in 1909, the Giants jumped on the BUGS in the first inning 
and were connecting with everything the Pirate pitcher tossed their way. 
Clarke was in a spot. He couldn't take his hurler out of the box imme- 
diately, because he had failed to warm up a relief pitcher. In the middle 
of the Giant clouting spree, Clarke, playing center field, suddenly held 
up his hand and yelled to the umpire that his shoelace had come untied. 
The ump called time and it took Clarke 15 minutes to tie that shoelace. 
McGraw screamed and raged at the "trick." As Fred was fussing over 
the shoelace, a Pirate relief pitcher was hurriedly warming up. 

The game finally got under way again, the Giants' hitting was 
stemmed, and the Pirates tied it up in the seventh inning. Pittsburgh got 
two men on base and Clarke came to bat. McGraw held up the game 
this time, waving left-fielder Harry McCormick in from deep in the 
garden to a position not far behind the third-baseman. The fans hooted 
at McGraw. It seemed like a fantastic spot for McCormick to be stand- 
ing. But a moment later, when Fred Clarke hit a screaming line drive 
over the third-baseman's head and McCormick made a shoestring catch 
to save the ball game, everybody's respect for McGraw had increased 

Time and again the daring McGraw would juggle his players about 

during a game, planting them in seemingly ridiculous positions on the 
field. It almost always paid off. He had an uncanny instinct for where 
the ball was going to be hit. Actually, it was only partly instinct, be- 
cause no manager studied the habits of rival batters so thoroughly, or 
had such a memory for their past performances. 

The late Bozeman Bulger, a sportswriter who hero-worshipped Me- 
Graw and consequently became one of his best friends, told many stories 
of the manager's magnificent memory. In 1932, talking to McGraw one 
day in a hotel room, Bulger asked him, offhandedly, if he remembered 
the first time he saw Casey Stengel in action. 

"I certainly can," McGraw came back quickly. "He was playing with 
Brooklyn, and the first time up he hit a low curve ball over the left-field 

That incident had happened in a Giant-Brooklyn clash in 1912. 
Twenty years had elapsed, but McGraw talked about the details of that 
unimportant game as though it had been played only a few hours before. 

One of the reasons John McGraw seldom forgot anything that hap- 
pened on a ball field was that he watched every game with fanatic con- 
centration. He could never relax. His nerves were always on edge, and 
it infuriated him if the players on the bench did not show the same 
feverish interest in the contest at hand. 

In spite of McGraw's despotic behavior on the bench, the majority of 
the Giants who toiled for him during his 30-year reign of terror and 
triumphs wouldn't have swapped him for any manager in the league. 
The husky habitues of the Polo Grounds had a trembling sort of love for 
their squat, blood-and-thunder manager. He could, speaking as soft as 
Summer air or breathing fire and brimstone, wring inspired baseball 
from them. He had the same spirit Rockne had, or perhaps it should be 
said that the Rock was touched with the same wand as McGraw. 

Mel Ott, who has spilled a few million words of admiration on Mc- 
Graw, told me, "He was rough as hell at times, but let any outsider say 
a word against any of us and we were ready to fight/* 

When McGraw couldn't win games and pennants by brain power 
alone, he did it by sheer force of will power combined with recklessness. 
Few stories of managerial genius equal that of McGraw's 1921 pennant 
drive. In early September, the Giants were trailing the league-leading 
Pirates by seven and a half games. The team was sloppy afield and limp 
at the plate. The Pirates breezed into New York with plenty of zing, 
confident that the NL flag would soon fly over Forbes Field. 

Before the double-header for that day started, McGraw called his 
Giants into session and threw the book at them. At first, he just got mad, 
burning mad, and the words bounced off the rafters and filled up the 
room and ate into the hearts of the players like lye. He called them 
yellow quitters and worse; he lashed them with profanity; he degraded 

[245 1 

and humiliated them; he told them they deserved their lickings and said 
he hoped they'd get worse. 

And then, when they were cringing and beaten, he suddenly stopped. 
His voice became quiet and clear and those who were there that day said 
his words brought tears and touched the stoniest of hearts. There was 
sadness in his tone as he recalled Giant history of the past, 20 years of it, 
as he told them of victories won against terrible odds, of the pride and 
dignity of men who refused to be beaten. He pleaded for the team and 
himself with the voice of an angel. He really had it that day. 

The Giants he finally unleashed on the Pirates went on the field as 
though possessed. They pounced on the Pittsburgh club like an army 
with banners and won the first game. They started the second game in 
the same fashion, but by the last of the seventh the stunned Pirates had 
recovered and unleashed their terrific power to go ahead by one run. 
The Giants loaded the bases in the last of the eighth and George Kelly 
came to bat. Babe Adams, hurling for the Bucs, tried to fool Kelly on 
curves and got behind three balls and no strikes. One mpre ball would 
force in the tying run. It was then McGraw rose to his heights. Fie 
signaled Kelly to hit the next pitch! 

"What!" exclaimed Casey Stengel, who was sitting beside McGraw on 
the bench. "What the hell!" 

"Shut up!" McGraw growled. 

Kelly stepped out of the box and glanced at the dugout again, as 
though he hadn't seen the sign or couldn't believe it. He probably 
couldn't believe it. 

McGraw gave him the "hit" sign again. Kelly dug in. Adams threw a 
fast ball right down the middle. Kelly swung away and parked it into 
the stands for a grand-slam homer. Everyone went wild. McGraw, cold 
as ice, turned to Stengel and said, "I knew Adams would throw it in 
there. And I know what Kelly can do with a fast ball down the alley, I 
don't only want to win this game. I want to crush these guys." 

The Giants swept that series. The Pirates faltered, then buckled, and 
the New Yorkers went on to take the pennant. 

But after that magnificent sweep of the doubleheader, did McGraw 
rush into the Giant locker room and fall on his charges with praise and 
sentiment? He did not. He walked in, a stern and commanding figure, 
looked the players over carefully, and snarled, "You fellows have a 
chance yet, if my brain holds out." 

That was McGraw. He may have felt proud and grateful, but he also 
knew that the only way to keep his Giants storming ahead was to dig 
the spurs into them and never let up. 

All his life, McGraw firmly believed he never asked any ballplayer to 
do what he couldn't have done in the prime of his playing days. It often 
annoyed or saddened him when he discovered that young ballplayers he 

[215 J 

liked were not acquainted with the fact that their fat-encased manager 
had once been trim Johnny McGraw, a great ballplayer. 

Johnny McGraw was a ballplayer, all right In the 1890*5, when the 
fans rode to the parks in horse-drawn buses, the McGraw kid was one 
of the most talked-about players of the day. He was a speedy, scrappy 
dynamo, the Eddie Stanky of his time. He was one of the first of the 
'little men" in baseball, which was then a game played chiefly by 
brawny, muscular giants. Johnny McGraw, standing five feet, six and a 
half inches, weighing 121 pounds, was the terror of the old American 
Association and, later on, the National League. From 1891 to 1899, he 
was the brain and sparkplug of the championship Baltimore Orioles, con- 
sidered by some to be the greatest ball club of all time. 

"When I played the game/' McGraw once remarked proudly, "a ball 
park was a rough, uncultivated lot, a grandstand was a jumble of rickety 
slats, and a club pay-roll looked like the wage list of a logging camp." 

It was a long-ago and far-away time. Most of the fathers of our pres- 
ent-day stars had not yet been born when Johnny McGraw became a 
professional ballplayer. At 17, years before the Spanish-American War, 
the itinerant young ballplayer, John McGraw, was playing exhibition 
games in Havana, Cuba. He toured with ball clubs through the South 
and Middle West when baseball was still in swaddling clothes. 

John J. McGraw, the son of a farmhand and section-gang worker, was 
born in Truxton, about 18 miles south of Syracuse, New York, in 1873, 
the year Ulysses S. Grant began his second term as President of the 
United States. John was the oldest of four children. Their mother died 
when he was 12 and the family broke up, the father pushing the kids off 
on various relatives. He got his son John a job as a candy butcher on the 
old Elmira, Cordand, and Northern Railroad. 

As a boy, McGraw was fresh and argumentative, often annoying pas- 
sengers with his didactic opinions about baseball. One of these rhubarbs 
was over whether or not a baseball could be made to curve in flight 
Passengers made bets and, at the next stop, the 1 5-year-old McGraw got 
off the train to prove his point. He put stakes in the ground 20 feet apart 
in a straight line. 

'Til start the ball from the left side of the stake at my end/' he ex- 
plained, 'make it pass to the right of the middle stake and it will be 
caught on the left side of the stake at the other end." 

He did, and collected a share of the bets made. 

Whenever Johnny could sneak away from his train job, he played ball 
with a school team in Truxton. He had dreams of becoming a great 
pitcher. His father, as strong-willed as the son, considered baseball a 
waste of time. It led to conflict, beatings, ill-will between the two. The 
elder McGraw often whaled the daylights out of his son when he caught 
him neglecting his job to play ball. 

[ 217 1 

It is fascinating, in a psychiatric sense, that the two most stormy, pug- 
nacious, successful figures in baseball history, Ty Cobb and John J. 
McGraw, both defied their fathers to become ballplayers. But how could 
the poor, work-ridden McGraw senior know that die boy he lectured 
and thrashed would some day, because of this game of baseball, meet 
and talk to the King of England, travel the whole world, make and lose 
fortunes, become a fabulous, international figure? 

McGiaw's father was responsible for forcing Johnny to teach himself 
to "place hit" a baseball A left-handed hitter, Johnny naturally drove 
the ball to the right. A school house stood at the end of the lot in right 
field and young McGraw broke more than one window in it, for which 
his dad had to pay. The lickings he took set his nimble brain to working. 

"Experimenting and practicing/' he later said, "I found that by chang- 
ing the position of my feet and by using a chop swing, I could poke the 
ball into left field, fooling the other team and saving myself a whaling. 
Learning that as a kid/' he would add, "was responsible for my batting 
record in the major leagues." 

At 1 6, McGraw joined the Truxton Grays, a semi-pro hometown 
team. He went from there to East Homer, then to the Olean club in the 
Iron and Oil League, where he was turned into a third-baseman. He was 
to stay in that spot, and shortstop, for the rest of his playing days. Mc- 
Graw then began skipping to many teams, going on exhibition tours, 
always on the lookout for a way to better himself. He had a very shrewd 
ability to get more money than most ballplayers were then being paid. 

By 1891, when he was not quite 19, the fire-eating ballplayer had 
gained such a reputation that 29 ball clubs were after his services. He 
took an offer from the Cedar Rapids club in Iowa at $125 per month. 
It created quite a furor among other owners of ball teams, because 
McGraw had made tentative deals with all of them. The owner of one 
club had the law out looking for McGraw, threatening to drag him 
into court for his failure to keep a promise that he would play for 

This threatened law suit was the first of a pattern. Mac was to see the 
inside of many courtrooms as the years rolled on. No manager in base- 
ball spent so much time peering up at a judge as did John McGraw. 
He began creating enemies before he was out of his 'teens. Down 
through the years, his legal brawls made headlines. There were nasty 
scandals, humorous and tragic incidents* For every individual he 
charmed, hundreds hated him. 

Strangely enough, McGraw seemed to feel more guilt about his con- 
duct as an adolescent than he did as an adult. As a man, he never apolo- 
gized for his escapades, but he seemed to feel that he shouldn't be held 
responsible for the scrapes he got into as a youth and the promises he 
broke in order to get ahead as a ballplayer* 

I 218 1 

"I was really just a small boy a long way from home," he once told 
a reporter. "I didn't know exactly what to do. I had no older man to 
advise me. As long as I had to decide these things all alone, I did the 
best I could/' 

McGraw's best was always pretty wonderful for McGraw* Even 
as a kid, he was as shrewd in baseball matters as you can possibly get. 
He knew how to threaten and bargain. And you have to admire the way 
he was as a youngster, with guts, a good brain, and the ability to use 
both. He had to learn to scratch and claw and slug. Those qualities 
stayed with him all his life and made him great. 

There was a sentimental streak as wide as a base-path in McGraw, 
too. He loved those old ball clubs for which he had played. The Polo 
Grounds was always well stocked with old players who held down 
minor jobs as gate-keepers and groundsmen simply because they once 
played with McGraw. Sight unseen, he once signed a pitcher named Otis 
Crandall because the youngster hailed from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the 
last minor-league club for which McGraw played. McGraw's senti- 
mentality paid off on that deal. Crandall developed into a classy hurler. 

Manager Billie Barnie and the Orioles were shocked and tickled 
at the sight of the skinny kid with fierce, dark, deep-set eyes who turned 
up late in the season of 1891. Barney had signed him on a tout from 
Bill Gleason, famed shortstop of the St. Louis Browns. 

"Gleason tells me you think you're about as good as they come/' 
Manager Barnie said. "How can a shrimp like you play ball?'* 

"Let me in there," McGraw sparked. Tin tougher than I look/* 

That first day, Johnny McGraw took a seat on the end of the bench. 
A large, playful character sitting next to him gave the young Irishman 
the hip, knocking him off the bench into the dirt. He regretted that 
play. McGraw flew at him, screaming like a maniac, his fists beating 
a tattoo against the big player's face. It took several Orioles to tear him 
loose from their battered teammate. After that, they left him alone. He 
was "in." But from then on, for 42 years, McGraw never took the end 
seat on a bench. 

The Orioles were not a very sharp ball club when McGraw joined 
them. It wasn't until the following year, when Ned Hanlon became 
manager and the Baltimore franchise was incorporated into the National 
League, that they began to catch fire. It was Foxy Ned Hanlon who put 
together that legendary Baltimore powerhouse that won pennants year 
after year. McGraw's two closest friends on that Oriole team were 
Wilbert Robinson and Hughie Jennings. All three later became man- 

In his good-natured, frolicsome way, Jennings was as ambitious and 
eager to get ahead in life as Johnny McGraw. They roomed together, 
talked and studied baseball, got out early in the mornings and practiced 


hitting and fielding before the other players reported to the field. They 
even decided they needed to be educated, that it would help them in 
baseball and in the world outside the game. 

McGraw made up his mind to take courses at St. Bonaventure Col- 
lege, St. Bonaventure, N. Y,, between baseball seasons. Jennings fell in 
with the idea. But their salaries then were only $1,400 a year, not 
nearly enough to keep them going and pay for tuition. Johnny dreamed 
up the idea of teaching baseball at the school in return for their tuition. 
Their offer was accepted and today there is a McGraw-Jennings Field 
at St. Bonaventure, in honor of two ballplayers who wanted to learn 
and grow. 

McGraw played third base on the championship 1894 Oriole team. 
Jennings was at short, Brouthers at first, Reitz at second. In the outfield 
were Steve Brodie, Joe Kelly, and that other "shrimp" who reached 
Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Wee Willie Keeler. Behind 
the plate was the massive Wilbert Robinson, who was later to manage 
the Dodgers for so many years and feud so bitterly with his old friend, 
McGraw. The pitchers were headed by the immortal Fred Clarkson, 
McMahon, Esper, and Pond. 

The feats of these Orioles have become legend. Their skill, their 
flaming courage, their team spirit has never been surpassed. Close com- 
panions of McGraw often said that he had more love for this team than 
even the greatest of his Giant aggregations. He always held them up 
as the team that did the most to revolutionize baseball. It was a team 
of youth, speed, quick thinking, and guts. McGraw was the ringleader. 

At New Orleans, in '94, McGraw worked out the "inside plays" that 
brought the Orioles three straight championships. Before Johnny Mc- 
Graw, the bunt was used merely as a sacrifice to advance a runner. 
McGraw taught the Orioles how to use the bunt as a "surprise" that 
would land them safely on first. With the "hit 'em where they ain't" 
genius, Wee Willie Keeler, he devised the now standard hit-and-run 

McGraw was the lead-off man and Keeler followed him. A man 
reaching first, playing the "old style," would either wait for a hit, try to 
steal, or hope to advance on a sacrifice. McGraw and Keeler changed 
all that. Mac would start down as if to steal, feinting the infielder 
toward second, and Keeler would hit through the hole that had been 
vacated. If the ball was so bad that Keeler couldn't hit it, McGraw 
would keep going. If Keeler hit safely, McGraw would reach third. 

It is not generally known, but Johnny McGraw was one of the 
fastest runners in baseball. He stole as many as 77 bases in one season 
with the Orioles. Between his stealing, the surprise bunts, the hit-and- 
run, and the spark of the team, the Orioles completely befuddled the 
"old-fashioned" players of the other teams in the league. 


'It's just a bunch of trick stuff those kids pull/' said John Montgomery 
Ward, then manager of the Giants. "It's just tricks and luck and they 
won't last." 

Ward changed his mind late in the season when the hit-and-run 
Orioles took 24 out of 25 games, winning 18 straight! McGraw was the 
terror of the umpire as well as rival players, shouting at him in a bellig- 
erent manner and pulling off illegal stunts so slickly that the custo- 
dian in blue seldom saw them. 

In those days, the game had only one umpire. The way McGraw took 
advantage of that fact earned him the reputation of creating the multiple 
ump system. Sometimes, in a crisis, with the umpire following the flight 
of the ball, McGraw would ignore second base and cut directly from 
first to third. The rival players would yell bloody murder, but Muggsy 
would insist, in a louder tone, upon the rule that the umpire could make 
a decision only on what he had actually seen, not on hearsay. 

McGraw had a pocketful of tricks. With a runner on third, ready to 
take off for home die moment a fly ball was caught, McGraw would 
surreptitiously hook his finger in the player's belt. He would hold on just 
long enough to insure the runner being caught at the plate. He was so 
cute about It that the umpire seldom caught him in the act. A Louisville 
player once fixed McGraw by loosening his belt. He then romped for 
home, leaving the enraged and foolish-looking third-baseman holding 
a strap in his hands. 

During McGraw's first year at Baltimore, he was nicknamed 
"Muggsy." He deserved the tag. He also despised it. It was given to him 
by a newspaperman who implied that Johnny McGraw, the wasp of the 
Orioles, was related to a Baltimore ward-heeler known as Muggsy Mc- 
Graw. The politico was an uncouth, rough-and-ready, somewhat shady 
character. The ballplayer, who was then attending college in his off- 
time and striving to become a gentleman off the field, hated being linked 
to the ward-heeler. 

Always after that, whenever anyone wanted to taunt John McGraw, 
the name "Muggsy" was trotted out and put to use. At the sound of it, 
McGraw would immediately assume the role of a "mug," flying into a 
fierce rage. Some of his friends, not familiar with baseball, often thought 
the term "Muggsy" was one of endearment and carne dangerously close 
to winding up on the floor. 

Not even Branch Rickey could carry on so many feuds at one time 
as John J. McGraw. How he managed to stay in baseball, with so many 
powerful sport figures out to get him, is something of a miracle. Mc- 
Graw did not limit his antagonisms to rival club owners and managers, 
but carried on word-and-fist battles with players, umpires, fans, celebri- 
ties in other fields, unknowns, and big shots. A few of his opponents in 
these classic feuds were Ban Johnson, Clark Griffith, Harry Pulliam, 

22i ] 

John K. Tener, Wilbert Robinson, Ty Cobb, Barney Dreyfuss, and all 
the umpires In the National League, headed by Bill Klem. 

The quarrel with Ban Johnson, American League president, was one 
of the most enduring and bitter. In 1900, when Baltimore was dropped 
from the National League, McGraw was sold to St. Louis. He was 
offered the highest salary then paid to a major-league player, $9,500. 
He accepted it only on condition that he could become a free agent at 
the end of the season. There was a terrific war then In progress between 
the newly formed American League, headed by Ban Johnson, and the 
old, established National League. Smart cookie McGraw wanted to be 
free to jump either way, in whatever direction would benefit John J. 

In 1901, Johnson talked McGraw into taking over as the manager of 
the Baltimore Orioles, which had been picked up by the American 
League. McGraw agreed. He spent most of 1901 fighting with Johnson, 
as bellicose a boy as John J. himself. 

"I couldn't get along with Johnson," was McGraw's version. "I wanted 
a successful team and all Johnson thought about was making the Ameri- 
can League pay off. He made unfair and harsh rulings against me and 
my players. He suspended me frequently. I knew he was angling for 
a club in New York and would drop us from the league like a hot 
potato the first chance he got." 

At the start of the 1902 season, McGraw beat Johnson to the punch 
by getting an unconditional release from the stockholders of the Balti- 
more Orioles. On July 7, 1902, the baseball world was stunned to hear 
that he had accepted an offer to manage the New York, Giants. Ban's 
bull-like bellows of rage echoed up and down both leagues. He accused 
McGraw of running out on the Baltimore club, of betraying a promise 
to stay in the American League, of being a crook and an Ingratc. Mc- 
Graw denied the charges in his usual style, much of his language being 

And so, under a storm cloud of Insults and protests, the 29-year-old 
McGraw arrived at the Polo Grounds. His salary for that year was to be 
$11,000 and he had stubbornly stipulated that he was to have absolute, 
unchallenged control of the Giants. Owner Freedman had agreed to 
this, figuring he could handle the young man and run things the way he 
saw fit. He didn't know McGraw. 

The new manager began tangling with the boss from the moment 
his hat was on the rack. He picked up the Giant roster and crossed out 
nine names. 

"We get rid of these fellows," he said. 

"No, you don't," Freedman came back* "They cost me a lot of money." 

"They won't play on my ball club," McGraw snapped. "And I want 
you to get me Billy Gilbert, Sam Mertes, George Davis," 

f 222 ] 

"Not Davis!" Freedman shouted. "I have no use for him!" 

"He's a great ballplayer!" McGraw yelled back, drowning out the 
owners protests. "You're going to get him for me and pay him $6,500 
a year. I'm going to run this club the way I see fit! Nobody's going to 
stop me!" 

Nobody ever did stop him, McGraw brought Iron Man Joe McGin- 
nity, Roger Bresnahan, Dan McGann, and Jack Cronin from the Orioles. 
He signed four or five other players he liked and began to build his 
Giants. He took them from the cellar in 1902 to second place in 1903. In 
1904, he brought the Giants their first pennant. 

"The only popularity I know," McGraw once remarked, "is to win." 

He carried the entire responsibility for the team on his broadening 
shoulders. His outward behavior was wild and boyish, but his decisions 
about his ball team were mature. He hired men he despised because he 
thought they had what it took to be a Giant. No matter how deep an 
affection McGraw had for a player, if he didn't measure up, the manager 
released him quickly. 

John T. Brush, who is credited with organizing the American-Na- 
tional League World Series, bought the Giants in 1903. He was a 
hearty, outspoken man, and he and McGraw hit it off immediately. He 
gave the young manager carte 'blanche and McGraw made him barrels 
of money. The Giants became the biggest draw in the league and the 
world champions in 1905. 

The wham-bang style of those early-day Giants, their cocky, aggres- 
sive manners on the diamond, brought the wrath of fans in rival towns 
down around their ears. McGraw instigated this and loved it. He had 
a large amount of Barnum in him. He was wise enough to realize that 
hate is as strong an attraction as love and that baseball bugs would lay 
it on the line in the hope of seeing the Giants trounced and humiliated. 

Cops were called in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Chicago to keep the 
Giants from being mobbed on their way to the ball park. McGraw 
worked out new ways to bring on the ire of fans. He would cart his 
players to the park, not in an ordinary bus, but in gilded carriages with 
banners proclaiming them World Champions. They were belted with 
eggs and stale fruit, assaulted and defiled, but the fans followed them 
right through the gate. 

In 1906, a string of injuries robbed the Giants of the pennant. The 
following year, McGraw again shocked the wise birds of baseball by 
tying the can on the players that had brought the Giants their cham- 
pionship. With one whack, he released over half the team. Established 
stars were traded for young, untried players. 

"McGraw is plumb crazy," a sportswriter remarked when he learned 
of the deal "He's so swell-headed he thinks he doesn't need players to 
win. He thinks all he has to have is McGraw." 

f 223 ] 

"Maybe so," another scribe answered. "There are always nine Mc- 
Graws on the field and one on the bench. But it wouldn't surprise me 
if the Giants grabbed another pennant pretty soon/' 

They almost did in 1908. In late September, they were hurtling 
down the stretch in a tie with the rip-snorting Cubs of Tinker to Evers 
to Chance fame. It was the "play that made history'' that robbed the 
green McGraw kids of the flag, the famous incident when Fred Merkle 
failed to touch second. 

It was the last half of the ninth at the Polo Grounds, with the score 
tied. Harry McCormick was on third and Merkle was on first. Al Brid- 
well came to bat with the pennant at stake. He drove the first pitch 
to center field for a base hit. McCormick came home with the "winning 
run." Merkle stopped between first and second and ran for the club- 

The fans poured out on to the field. Many of the Giant and Chicago 
players ran for the clubhouse. Johnny Evers, standing on second, kept 
screaming for the ball. It was finally relayed to him. He touched the 
bag and claimed that Merkle should be declared out, making the third 
out and nullifying the run. The umpires refused to make a decision 
until the next day, when they called the game a tie. 

At the end of the season, the Cubs and Giants were still all even. 
They played out the "Merkle game ' and, with Christy Mathewsoii 
pitching, the Giants lost the game and the pennant. There are hundreds 
of versions of this game and that famed "bonehead play" but the in- 
teresting thing is the reaction of John Joseph McGraw. The Giant 
fans were yelling for Merlde's scalp. They wanted him chastised. Some 
felt he should be given the gate. 

"I don't blame Merkle/' McGraw said at the close of the season. "He 
did what he had seen older ballplayers do many times. He's a fine player 
and he's going to be even better next year. I intend not only to keep 
him, but give him a raise." 

And that is what McGraw did. If he had made the same error in 
judgment himself, he probably would have jumped off the nearest 
bridge. Like a good general, John McGraw could always forgive and 
forget an error his players made as long as it did not involve disobeying 
an order. He showed the same rare tolerance toward Fred Snodgrass, 
who muffed an easy fly ball against the Red Sox, costing die Giants the 
1912, World Series. He also boosted Snodgrass' salary the next year. 

The Giants won the pennant for three straight years, starting in 1911. 
In 30 years, McGraw masterminded his team to a pennant on an aver- 
age of once every three years. Starting in 1921, die players from the 
Polo Grounds won four straight, which wasn't equalled until Mc- 
Carthy's Yanks went on a rampage. And McGraw never had a "Mur- 
derer's Row" to run up his scores. 

I 224] 

McGraw's 1911 team has been called the speediest baseball club in 
history. If any present-day clubs take exception to this, they should 
know that the Giants stole more bases that year than all the teams in 
the league put together had stolen the previous year. The reporters cover- 
ing a Western trip of the Giants that season had wonderful copy to 
send back. The Giants swiped so many bases, ran the paths in such wild, 
sliding, ripping style, that they literally tore their uniforms to rags. 
McGraw gleefully wired to New York for more uniforms. 

"The Giants aren't out to win the pennant," Bozeman Bulger reported 
from Chicago. "They are out to steal it. Josh Devore slid into second 
with such ferocity today that his pants were completely ripped off, 
leaving only a few rags hanging to a belt. He had to be escorted from 
the field half-naked/' 

The Giants rolled on, quarrelsome, boastful, and unbeatable. The 
newspapers and fans had, by this time, made McGraw a national figure, 
holding him up as a mixture of genius and ogre. He was a familiar 
figure along Broadway and at the racetrack, a swaggering, party-loving 
man with a talent for trouble. He had been married, the year he came 
to the Giants, to Mary Blanche Sindall, the socially prominent daughter 
of a Baltimore contractor. It remained a happy marriage, in spite of the 
escapades of Mrs. McGraw's fast-moving, stormy, headline-making hus- 

In 1912, although his Giants lost the World Series, John Joseph Mc- 
Graw was the big man of baseball. He decided to cash in on his fame 
by going on a vaudeville tour for a neat $3,000 per week. He opened 
at Hammerstein's Theater in New York and went on to the Palace in 
Chicago. He strutted across the country, happy behind the footlights, 
enjoying the "act" of building up McGraw. The following year, with 
still another pennant in his pocket, he and Charles Comiskey set off on 
a world tour with the Giants and White Sox. 

At the close of the World Series that year, when the A's again ripped 
the Giants and took the world championship, a long smoldering quarrel 
between McGraw and his old Oriole pal, Wilbert Robinson, broke into 
the open. Robby, who had been a fine Giant pitching coach, quit Mc- 
Graw and went across the river to Brooklyn. The hatred between the 
two men became as intense as their friendship had once been* This, 
as old-time baseball fans know, was the beginning of the fierce long- 
standing Brooklyn-Giant rivalry. 

McGraw came back from his first world tour riding the crest of the 
wave. He was getting beefy now, a puffy, wide-chested, broad-seated 
man with a bulbous nose and challenging, intelligent, know-it-all eyes. 
He had been to the Orient. He had spread the word about baseball all 
over the world, to Egypt, France, the Philippines. He had met and 
chatted with the King of England, The skinny, fire-eating kid from 

I 225] 

Truxton no longer existed. He was now a figure of importance, sought 
after, quoted, denounced, and praised. He was a big, unattractive, bel- 
licose character with the best brain in baseball, 

But even the mighty can stumble and take nose dives. The high- 
handed, despotic, generous, brilliant "Little Napoleon" cursed and drove 
and pleaded with his 1914 Giants as they fought for still another Na- 
tional League flag. But the inspired Boston Braves were too much for the 
McGraw men, who stumbled and then crumpled under the heat of the 
Braves' fire. 

Still heralded as the greatest manager in baseball, McGraw fumed on 
the bench through 1915 and into 1916. The latter year, he rose to un- 
equalled heights of leadership and then fell into the dust of despair. 
In early September, worked into a frenzy by McGraw and aided by 
the dazzling pitching of Ferdie Schupp, Perritt, Benton, and Sallee, 
the Giants won 26 games in a row! The Giant infield, composed of Buck 
Herzog, Art Fletcher, Walter Holke, and Henry Zimmerman, played 
matchless baseball 

'The finest Giant team in history!" 

"An inspired and wonderful winning streak!" 

"McGraw still has it he's the game's greatest pilot/' 

That's the way the sportswriters heaped praise on the rallying Giants 
and their manager. But, by the close of the season, the Giants had 
been nosed out of the race and McGraw was a snarling, embittered 
man. During a game against Brooklyn, led by his old rival, Wilbert 
Robinson, McGraw left the bench in disgust. He implied to the sports- 
writers that his players were quitters. He even hinted that they had 
thrown the game. 

It was an unjust accusation. The players felt hurt and abandoned. 
It became a scandal and almost drew an investigation. 

Rumors flew around town that McGraw was through, that he could 
no longer control himself or his team. Perhaps, in McGraw's eyes, the 
Giants were letting him down. They were not Orioles they were hu- 
man. They did not, as the Orioles would have done, go on fighting even 
when the cause looked hopeless. As Robby's team was licking the Giants 
that day, perhaps McGraw was thinking of his playing days with Balti- 
more, of old Robby grinding a smashed finger into the dust to stop the 
bleeding and finishing the game behind the plate. 

But John McGraw was a country mile from writing finis to his 
career. In 1917, he signed a contract for $40,000 a year and a share of 
the profits. It was to be a five-year deal. "He is not the fire-eater of old/' 
a newspaper account of the day said. "He has grown gray and tolerant 
or at least more tolerant/' 

McGraw had grown more gray, but surely not more tolerant He 
came out for the 1917 season like a lion released from a cage. He stewed 


up a huge cauldron of fuss and trouble and smashed through to still 
another National League pennant. He had, although few would have 
believed it at the start of the season, 15 more years ahead of him as a 
big-league manager. He was then 44 years old. He was considered one 
of the "old men" of baseball 

The furious little manager began the season by putting the biff and 
bam on umpire Bill Byron after a game in Cincinnati. It was a bloody 
battle, which Frank Graham reports at great length in his superlative 
book "McGraw of the Giants." The fight made newspaper headlines for 
weeks, due to McGraw's irrational statements and retractions. 

The fight began on a runway that led to the clubhouse. McGraw 
edged alongside a Cincinnati player who was berating umpire Byron and 
tossed in a few inflammatory words. Byron wheeled around and yelled 
at McGraw, saying that the manager had been chased out of Baltimore. 

"Nobody chased me out of Baltimore!" McGraw screamed. "Fd like 
to hear you say that again!" 

"They ran you out!" Byron came back. 

Wham! McGraw unleashed a punch that split Byron's lip. The um- 
pire bounced off the runway wall and McGraw was on him again, throw- 
ing punches like a kid trying to make the grade in the Golden Gloves. 
Cops and players finally interceded and pulled the still flailing McGraw 
away from Byron. A few days later, John K. Tener, then president of 
the National League, slapped a $500 fine and a 1 6-day suspension on 

Never one to take anything lying down, McGraw blew sky high. In 
an interview with Sid Mercer, a veteran New York sportswriter and 
then a friend of his, McGraw went on the warpath. He accused Tener 
of showing favoritism. He heaped abuse on the umpires of the National 
League and the way Tener handled them. It was a tirade that Mercer 
knew would cause tremendous repercussions if it were printed. 

Sid, a good newspaper man, was also a fair one. He gave McGraw 
every chance to cool off and back down from his statements. He even 
showed McGraw the story he had written and offered to kill it. Mc- 
Graw not only okayed it, but insisted that it be given to all the other 

When the story broke across the country, It created the furor Mercer 
had expected. The Giants were on the road, but McGraw was called to 
New York by Tener to account for his actions. Harry Hempstead, then 
president of the Giants, met McGraw, wringing his hands and moaning. 
The manager finally signed a statement to Tener that accused the base- 
ball writers of "inventing" the words he had spoken. In short, he called 
them all liars. 

The mess dragged on. The reporters didn't take the rap casually. They 
demanded an investigation to prove that McGraw had lied. It was finally 


held, with Tenet appointing a lawyer to conduct the hearings and to 
submit his findings in the case* Mercer, reluctantly, but with his own 
honor at stake, went on the stand. His testimony must have made Me- 
Graw feel very sick. Mac squirmed and angrily tried to make out a case 
for himself. When Tener got the report of the "trial," he was certain 
it was McGraw who had lied and he tagged him with still another fine, 
a cool $1,000. 

"It cost Mac $500 for fighting and $1,000 for talking about it/' a base- 
ball writer said, as Graham reports in his book. 

McGraw also lost many good friends among the baseball writers, in- 
cluding Sid Mercer, who never spoke to him after that and quit covering 
the Giants. 

If the affair bothered McGraw and it must have cut very deeply he 
didn't show it. He went right on snapping and raving. He charged ahead 
in the race for the National League pennant. He won the flag with prac- 
tically the same team he had walked away from in disgust that day a 
year before in Brooklyn. The World Series that year went to six games 
and the Giants were beaten by the White Sox because of another of 
those last inning "bonehead plays." This time the hapless culprit was 
Heinie Zimmerman. With nobody covering home plate, Heinie was 
forced to chase Eddie Collins of the Sox across the dish with the winning 

Again, McGraw did not take out his rage on the player. He vented 
his fury on the White Sox and manager Clarence Rowland, swearing at 
Rowland and refusing to shake hands with him after the final game. In 
defeat, John McGraw was seldom an example for the youth of the coun- 
try* He was a colossal sorehead as a loser, a rotten sportsman. The best 
you can say is that McGraw always expressed his feelings fully, honestly, 
and profanely. 

The lavish, generous parties McGraw tossed when he won are still 
remembered as keenly as his behavior when he lost. It is not difficult 
to understand why McGraw reacted so violently whenever his ball club 
was beaten. It was not the Giants who had been defeated it was Mc- 
Graw. The rage he took out on his rivals was actually directed at himself. 

"I myself, am heaven and hell/' holds true for John McGraw, the lone 
wolf, the supreme egoist with the creative baseball brain. It began at 12, 
after the death of his mother, when he defied his father to stand on his 
own. Nothing changed inside him, as a boy or a man, after that. 

For three years, from 1918 through 1920, under the shadow of World 
War I, the Giants finished in second place. They were always the team 
to beat and McGraw provided a three-ring circus on and off the field. 
In 1919, he became a part owner of the ball club along with Charles 
Stoneham and Francis X. McQuade. That same year, indulging his 
passion for horse racing, he bought an interest in a racetrack in Havana. 


He was living high, wide, and handsome. In 1920, his large, belligerent 
face was plastered all over the newspapers as he was dragged into court 
for using his fists too freely in the Lambs Club and in front of his home. 

William Boyd, a prominent actor of the time, was one of John's op- 
ponents in the Lambs Club slugf est They began swinging at each other 
when Boyd objected to McGraw's swearing in front of some scrub- 
women who happened to be nearby. Later that night, McGraw got into 
another brawl with John C. Slavin, a musical-comedy star. The fight 
took place in front of McGraw's apartment house and Slavin wound up 
in a hospital. 

The members of the Lambs Club, highly indignant, expelled Mc- 
Graw from the club. He was kept out for three years. The District 
Attorney swung into action and McGraw was tried in a district court 
and acquitted. In the meantime, he had beaten the daylights out of still 
another actor who had visited him to talk about what had happened at 
the Lambs Club! It was an involved and messy business which dragged 
on for months. John McGraw was not what you'd call a peaceful citizen. 

The doughty manager opened the 1921 season by brawling with Clark 
Griffith and his ancient enemy, Ban Johnson. He had hired his old pal, 
Hughie Jennings, as head coach. Together, they planned to make life 
miserable for the other clubs in the league. They did just that. For four 
glorious, exciting, tumultuous years the Giants trampled on their ene- 
mies with great abandon, winning four pennants and two world cham- 
pionships. The Era of McGraw had returned. The beefy, glowing, 48- 
year-old managerial wonder romped and raved like a kid as his team 
pushed the hated Yankees into the dust two years in a row to become 
world champions. 

McGraw deserves complete credit for those triumphs. His brains beat 
a team that was, on paper, far superior. He had taken, in 1921, an un- 
nerved, slumping, disheartened collection of ballplayers and turned them 
into champions. He had faced the slugging Yanks headed by the blast- 
ing Ruth, and two years in a row proved to the world of baseball that 
a manager is still the most important figure on a ball club, and that John 
J. McGraw was as invincible as of old. 

The years from 1921 to 1924 in baseball belong to McGraw. He 
milked them for all they were worth. He had the time of his life, cele- 
brating his victories like a maharaja. There were parties, wild and 
wonderful, in the old Waldorf Hotelchampagne, speeches, back- 
slapping, and rejoicing. The McGraws took trips abroad and the fine, 
riotous life was continued in London and Paris. McGraw was as high 
and happy in victory as he was mean and miserable in defeat. 

The second world tour with the White Sox, at the close of the 1924 
season, was a washout financially. But McGraw and his gang had a rol- 
licking good time. The welcome of warm and admiring throngs, the 

[229 ] 

audiences with royalty and heads of state put the old fire-eater in a warm 
and mellow mood. He loved pomp and ceremony almost as much as 
rousing rows with hard-headed, tough umpires and long-standing ene- 
mies. For years afterward, McGraw loved to tell stories about his per- 
sonal triumph on the Continent and the reaction of the lowly and the 
great ones to our national game. 

One of the more amusing of these incidents happened during an exhi- 
bition game outside London. A husky Giant batter belted a ball far over 
the head of a White Sox centerfielder. A member of the English nobil- 
ity, sitting with McGraw, tapped the manager on the shoulder and said, 
"Ah, I say, too bad, too bad!" 

"What do you mean, too bad?" McGraw demanded. 

"Out of bounds, dear fellow, out of bounds!" the Englishman clucked. 

Always after these tours of triumph, or maybe because of them, evil 
days would fall on McGraw. He got sick at the start of the 1925 season. 
The Giants began to roll downhill. The Pirates walloped them, late in the 
season to clinch the pennant The only bright spot that year was the 
appearance of a husky youngster from Louisiana, a gawky kid carrying 
a paper-backed suitcase. "Mr. McGraw/' the boy said, shaking in the 
presence of the great manager, "I'm Melvin Ott." 

In a sudden unpredictable move which was so typical of McGraw, the 
manager gave the boy a uniform and made him a Giant. It was Ott who 
was to become the last of McGraw's great stars, to worship him as few 
men ever have, and continue to keep the name of McGraw an alive and 
shining thing long after McGraw passed from the baseball scene. The 
year McGraw gained this new, young, adoring friend, he lost an old one, 
Christy Mathewson died, A part of McGraw went with his first star and 
great pitcher. He had loved Matty very much and it was a loss from 
which he never really recovered. 

Into the ears of Mel Ott, McGraw poured all the wisdom he had 
gained down through the years. The growth of Ott as a slugger and 
outfielder is a Horatio Alger story which has been told many times. Ott, 
in his prime, was a monument to the genius of John McGraw. 

"He helped everyone/' Ott said. "Even those he disliked. He was a 
fine, decent man and the greatest thing that ever happened to me was 
knowing him. He was also the greatest manager baseball has ever known. 
Nobody could inspire players as he could, give them such a will to win/' 

It is somewhat sad that Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, the last of 
the long string of great ballplayers, developed by McGraw, never saw 
him at his height, during the glory of his pennant-winning streaks. In 
1926, the first full year that Ott wore a Giant uniform, the Giants sunk 
to fifth place. It was the first time in a decade they had failed to finish 
in the first division* 

The year was marred by Frankie Frisch taking off in mid-season. 

[ 230 ] 

Frankie's quitting the Giants was brought on by the constant, merciless 
riding of McGraw. As captain of the team for two seasons, Frisch had 
borne the brunt of McGraw's cruel tongue-lashings as the Giants slipped 
down the ladder of the league. Frisch, who was far from being a thin- 
skinned player, took it until it became unbearable and then packed hjs 
grips one night in St. Louis and left in a huff for New York. 

McGraw traded Frisch and pitcher Jimmy Ring for the renowned 
Rogers Homsby who was to act as a combination player, captain, and 
assistant manager. That didn't work out, either. Nothing Rog did seemed 
to please McGraw, who left him in charge of the team late in the season. 
It was the first time McGraw had turned over his Giants to anyone. It 
was the beginning of the end. The old firehorse had a few more spurts 
of fury left in him, but he was rapidly running down, dogged by ill- 
health, inner-club wrangling and rhubarbs with the National League's 
president, John Heydler. 

In 1928, McGraw shook himself like a punchy fighter, cleared his 
head, and charged back into battle again. He pushed his Giants in and 
out of first place. He pushed them in with all the shrewd managerial 
tricks of old. He pushed them out again by flying into such uncontrol- 
lable temper tantrums that the players became rattled, frightened, and 
booted ball games. The Giants finished in second place, two games be- 
hind the Cards, after a row in late September in which McGraw accused 
umpire Bill Klem and Heydler of robbing them of the pennant. 

The Giants finished third in 192,9 and 1930, and fought gamely to 
overtake the Cardinals again in 1931. They were hopelessly out-classed 
and McGraw suffered through moods of helpless rage and frustration 
and melancholy. But he went right on throwing his weight around, bul- 
lying umpires, shouting at his old nemesis, Bill Klem, as though it were 
1907 again and he still had enough strength in his body to flatten The 
Old Arbitrator with one blow. 

At 59, John McGraw was sick in body and mind, but he was still 
raring and furious. He was kicked off the field in St. Louis one after- 
noon after threatening to annihilate an umpire. Heydler wearily fined 
him $150 and probably wondered, helplessly, if the old demon would 
ever die down. He never did. 

McGraw lay in wait for Heydler outside the ball park the next day 
and, in front of an amazed crowd of fans and players and reporters, 
screamed insults at the bewildered, embarrassed president of the league. 
His wrath became so terrifying that those gathered feared he would 
have a stroke. He even wheeled on the crowd and cursed them furiously 
for listening! 

How many gathered there that day realized that McGraw was revil- 
ing himself? His team had lost, the fluttering pennant had eluded him, 
and he knew he was too old and tired and used-up ever to be able to hit 

I 231 } 

the glory trail of a comeback again. The fire in the stove had died down 
to mere coals of glowing resentment at the frightening realization that 
McGraw of the Giants was through. 

He didn't even enter the ball park that day late in 1931. He went 
back to his hotel, sat alone in his room, a sick, weary man, heavy head 
hanging to one side, alone and pitiful like some great, mortally wounded 

"The only popularity I know," he had once said, "is to win." He 
could no longer win. 

Matty was gone. So was Ross Youngs and Kid Gleason and Joe Kelly 
and Ned Hanlon. Who was around who had seen the Orioles of 1894? 
Who remembered the Giants of 1905 and the way Johnny McGraw, 
their slim, young, furious manager, had been then? Did they remember 
who had given baseball the hit-and-run, the pinch-hitter? They never 
wrote about that any more. . . . 

He was The Old Man. He could no longer handle his players. He 
could now inspire only fear or humor. Some of them even dared talk 
back to him. 

Early in June of 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was campaigning for 
President and the Giants were in last place when the news of John J. 
McGraw's retirement was splashed across the front pages of newspapers 
all over the country. Baseball fans who had cast their first vote for 
Grover Cleveland and followed Muggsy McGraw's blazing career for 
three decades felt a choking sensation in their throats. They felt it 
whether they had loved him or hated him. They knew he had been 
worthy of both. 

Bill Terry took over the Giants. McGraw puttered around in an office 
on 42nd Street, trying to conduct himself like a staid and disinterested 
executive. It fooled no one. He had few visitors. The sight of him was 
too sad. He never looked at home anywhere except on the bench, or 
on the playing field, or near a place where Giant uniforms were being 
worn, victories being celebrated. 

He made his last fighting appearance in 1933 as the manager of the 
National League All-Star team, opposing Manager Connie Mack of the 
American League. Babe Ruth, one of the <f big men" John McGraw once 
said he had driven out of baseball, broke up the ball game with a home 
run. McGraw shook hands with Connie Mack after the game. He had, 
in the very end, learned how to lose graciously. But it wasn't a Giant 
team he was master-minding that day. 

From high in the stands in Washington, he watched the Giants, 
under his protege, Bill Terry, sweep the Senators off their feet in the 
1933 World Series. But they no longer seemed to be Giants, these 
sparkling players out of the range of his voice and the touch of his 


Years like that one might have dragged on, but the end came quietly 
and kindly. Just 19 months after John J. McGraw had resigned as man- 
ager of the New York Giants, on February 25, 1934, he died in a hos- 
pital in New Rochelle, New York. 

There is no simple way to sum up the career of a man like John J. 
McGraw, the fabulous, furious leader of the New York Giants, the 
pioneer and genius in the field of managing baseball players. He was 
too big and important to the game of baseball to attempt to eulogize by 
tossing off a final, pat phrase. 

One day in the early 1900*5, a ballplayer who had left the Giants was 
standing in a hotel lobby cussing out McGraw in language of the sort 
"The Little Napoleon" had undoubtedly once curled around his ears. 
The player poured it on, to the delight of the reporters who had gath- 

"Say, " one of the newspapermen finally said, "you know, since 

you left the Giants, McGraw always speaks very highly of you/' 

The ballplayer stopped raving. He rubbed his chin. "He does?" he 
said. Then he grinned. 'Well, let me also tell you this. I'd really rather 
play ball for that no good blankety-blank so-and-so than any manager 
that ever lived!" 



THE day was dry and hot, with just the whisper of a wind stirring 
the warm air. Big, white clouds moved lazily in the sky, traveling 
North over the land of Texas. The elements were at peace, but a 
man-made storm was occurring in a Houston ball park. For on this fine 
day in 1930 the name and reputation of one of the greatest pitchers of 
the 2oth century was being born. The sassy young hurler was feeling 
no pain, but the nine other men talcing part In the birth were experi- 
encing all manner of anguish, humiliation, despair, and wonder. 

The occasion was an exhibition game between the Houston team and 
the Chicago White Sox. And the arm and antics of the 20-year-old 
Texas League pitcher were causing wailing and gnashing of teeth in the 
White Sox dugout. The major-leaguers, one by one, were stepping to 
the plate, thrashing at air, unable to so much as nick the blinding speed- 
ball the Houston hero was throwing. 

The pitcher's name, when he went into the game, was Jerome Her- 
man Dean. But, before the contest ended, he was to be given a new first 
name. He was henceforth to be known as "Dizzy," And the name of 
Dizzy Dean was to dominate the baseball world for a decade, become 
synonymous with great pitching and colorful clowning. It was to add 
richly to the lore of our national game, provide us with hundreds of 
wonderfully human, hilarious, tragic, and inspirational anecdotes. From 
that day forward, the sight of Dizzy Dean walking to the mound would 
always mean thrills and laughs and, on a few occasions, a sadness that 
was deeply felt and moving. 

Jerome was completely unaware of all this on the day he was In the 
process of getting his new name. He was having the time of his life. His 
big, sloping shoulders were moving rhythmically. He was burnin* them 
in there. His grin seemed to stretch almost to home plate. His chatter 
and wisecracks were full of brash, confident, homespun humor. 

"Well, lookee, now watta we got here? Jes' keep that ol' bat on the 
shoulder, fellah. I'm a-gonna breeze this here one right across the mid- 

[ 234 ] 

die* Now don't get the catcher fussed up by swingin* at it. Jes' save yer 
strength and watch 'er go by!" 

Whoosh! A swing and a miss. 

Down in the Chicago dugout, manager Owen Bush was more than 
slightly steamed up. He called to the batter, loudly and derisively. 

"What's going on out there? You're supposed to be a major-leaguer! 
You're lettin' that dizzy kid make a fool outa ya!" 

Jerome Herman turned the big grin toward the White Sox dugout. 
Before facing the batter again, he delivered a few wisecracks to the man- 
ager, some derogatory words about the ability of the Chicago hitters. 

"Listen to that!" Bush railed, jumping up and down in anger. "Are 
you guys gonna take that from this dizzy kid?" 

It was dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, all afternoon. The adjective was a better 
description of the batters than of the kid pitcher. They swung and 
missed until most of them felt as though they had their heads in a re- 
volving door. And down in town that night, the fans, the players on 
both teams, and Jerome Herman, himself, were talking about the per- 
formance of Dizzy Dean. 

A name can be born in a moment. It takes action to make it mean 
something, to breathe life and color into it. Diz gave it that life. A lesser 
man might have resented the name "Dizzy," but not a guy like Dean. 
He kept the name because he was born to live up to it and because he 
loved baseball. Even then, this warm, lovable, uneducated (but wise) 
kid understood that baseball is more than mere automatons who can hit, 
catch, or pitch. He knew that the game is also the personalities of the 
men who play it, their diverse backgrounds and peculiarities. 

As his onetime brilliant teammate, Pepper Martin, said: 'When oF 
Diz was in there pitching, it was more than just another ball game. It 
was a regular three-ring circus and everybody was wide awake and enjoy- 
ing being alive." 

Even as Jerome Herman Dean, his big right arm undoubtedly would 
have made him a great winning pitcher. But as Dizzy Dean, he was 
more than that. He was a tremendous, exciting personality, a strictly 
screwy, magnificently American character, an advertisement for baseball, 
an attraction that drew to the game those hitherto unfortunate people 
who didn't know a scratch hit from a double steal. Like the Babe, he 
drew 'em in and he kept 'em. 

Let it now be admitted that it was far from difficult for OF Diz, as he 
loves to call himself, to live up to his name. The boy from the cotton- 
fields of Arkansas and Oklahoma was possessed of a boundless enthusi- 
asm, a fanciful imagination, a wild sense of fun, an earthy, articulate 
speech, a feeling for the dramatic, and a love for entertaining himself 
and his fellowmen. All this, plus a natural ability to throw a baseball 
as though it were jet-propelled. 

f 235 J 

Most pitchers will sit by the hour and tell you the special technique 
they use in their deliveries. Not Diz. Nobody ever taught Dizzy any- 
thing about how to pitch, and it never held any mysteries for him. He 
believed wholeheartedly, without doubt or jealousy, that he was the 
most colossal pitcher in the world. And for six years, during the height 
of his career with the Gas House Gang, he was as good as every boast 
he ever made. 

'They used to talk about that natural rhythm I had and all that," 
Diz said to me recently, as he sprawled on a golf course in Miami, 
Florida. "That ain't no way to tell people how I pitched," he grinned. 
'Tell 'em that I jest used to rare back and fog 'em in there." 

That is as fine a description of the way Dean pitched as any of the 
millions of words about him now in the musty files. Standing six feet, 
two and a half inches, weighing 175 pounds, with huge, sloping shoul- 
ders and tremendous hands, Ol' Diz just took a long, easy stretch and 
fogged them across the plate. When he settled himself on the mound, 
it was not only to win a ball game; it was to have a whale of a good 
time. He cared not a whit about the serious, scientific points of the game. 
He was out there to win and to have fun. Pitching a game of ball was 
nothing but sheer, unadulterated razz-ma-tazz and joy. 

"I never bothered about what those guys could hit and couldn't hit," 
he laughed. "All I knowed is that they weren't gonna get a-holt of that 
ball Ol' Diz was throwin'." 

Boston will never forget the afternoon Diz loudly announced to all 
the Braves that he wasn't going to throw a curve during the entire game. 
All he was going to need was his fast ball He didn't unfurl a curve all 
afternoon, and he shut out the Boston club, 3-0, allowing only three hits. 

He sometimes drove a catcher nearly out of his mind by insisting on 
pitching to a batter's strength. The way Ruth couldn't be bothered "hit- 
tin' them singles," Diz never bothered about playing it safe. A great 
pitcher was supposed to strike 'em all out the hard way, and that was 
what Dean always tried to do. 

Frankie Frisch, who was his good friend (as was everybody), and who 
suffered and sweated and wept and rejoiced while managing the Cards 
and Dizzy Dean, finally gave up telling Diz how to pitch to enemy bat- 
ters. The last time he tried it was on a memorable day in September, 
1934, when Diz and Paul were going up against the Dodgers. In the 
clubhouse, before the game, Frisch started down the Brooklyn lineup, 
trying to explain to Dizzy how to feed 'em tt> each hitter. Diz had a 
snort or a wisecrack for each tip. He finally held up his hand. 

"Now, take it easy, Frankie," he said in a friendly way. "I've win 26 
games this year and it don't look exactly right for no infielder to be 
tellin' a star like me how to pitch a game o' ball." 

Frisch blew his top. He ranted and raved, but it didn't cause Diz to 


so much as lose a chomp on the gum he was peacefully chewing. Frisch 
shouted that Dizzy could pitch any way he damn well pleased and he 
would get his ears pinned back. 

"Aw, now, Frankie," Diz grinned. '1 doubt if them Brooks gets a hit 
ofPn me or Paul this afternoon." 

Diz hiked blissfully to the mound and, with exasperating and effort- 
less motion, held the Dodgers hitless through eight breathless innings. 
With two out in the eighth, the Brooklyn boys got their only hit in the 
ball game. Then Paul took over in the next game and, in his usual stoic 
fashion, pitched a no-hitter. 

The wonderful part of the incident was not only the performance of 
the devastating Deans. It was what was going on in Dizzy's mind out 
there in the eighth inning, with only four more batters to face and 
retire, with a no-hitter in his grasp. 

What was Diz thinking about? J. Roy Stockton, then a sports reporter, 
asked him that question right after the game, 

"Thinkin 7 about? Naw, I wasn't thinkin* about pitchin* a no-hitter, 
I was havin' a picnic with that Frisch. Did you see them players duckin' 
behind posts to keep from bustin* out laughin? I sure hope that Frank 
manages the Cards forever. I sure love to drive that Dutchman nuts!" 

Nobody, of course, knows Dean quite as well as Stockton, now the 
famous sports editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Roy not only cov- 
ered the fabulous Dean for years he practically invented him. The 
character of the irrepressible, carefree, wise-cracking farmer boy that be- 
came as familiar to the American public as Li'l Abner, was drawn in 
large measure by Stockton. Many of the best Dean anecdotes which I 
have incorporated in this story appeared in print for the first time under 
Roy's byline in his phenomenally successful book, The Gas House Gang, 

The deeds of great men live after them, but they are not always in the 
record books, as every smart baseball man knows. This was certainly true 
of the career of Dizzy Dean. The record book gives you only a small idea 
of how great a pitcher he was. Records meant nothing to him. He never 
pitched a no-hit game. Trying for a no-hitter would have meant de- 
liberate, serious study. It would have meant turning a ball game into a 
chore, into toil, which would have ruined the day for Diz. He was a 
great competitor, he loved to win, but what the cold, dead record books 
would say in future years just didn't interest him. 

Dizzy Dean was "the pitcher for today," not for posterity. "I love to 
pitch," he said in 1936 when he was marching to the mound more fre- 
quently than anyone in the league. "I could go on pitchin' forever." 
And that is why, when the lights were doused on his pitching career, 
it was such a cruel, miserable time for him. 

In spite of himself, OF Diz set some stunning records, regardless of 
the fact that he seemed to be out on the mound only to enjoy life and 

[237 ] 

the warm sun on his back and the crowds and the good feeling of a 
called strike. Dean set a modern record for strikeouts when he whiffed 
17 Cubs in one game on July 30, 1933. Bob Feller tied Dean's mark in 
1936 and broke it in 1938, 

Starting in 315 games, Dizzy won 150, lost only 83, During his first 
six years with the Cards, before he hurt his arm, Diz averaged 22, wins 
a year. During his best season, 1934, Dean won 30 ball games, lost seven. 
In every one of his first six years, the Great Man struck out over 100 
men per season. In 1933, his second season in the majors, he fanned a 
total of 199 men. In '34 and '35, he led the league in games won and 
his all-time total of strikeouts reached the amazing figure of 1,154. His 
lifetime earned-run average was 3.03 per game. And Diz wouldn't like 
you to forget that he was also a dangerous long-ball hitter. 

'In one of them Worlt Series/' he said, '1 got two hits in one inning. 
Only a couple of guys ever got two hits in one inning in a Worlt Series. 
And no pitcher never done that except me." 

Diz is right. He rapped out a double and a single in one inning of 
the 1934 Series against the Tigers. But what you love about the guy is 
when he adds: "My brother Paul, he's got a better Worlt Series pitchin' 
record than me. Paul wins two out of two. Me, I win two and I lose 

Ballplayers of the early Thirties still love to gather and talk about 
the time "Ol' Diz did this" and "old Diz did that." Nobody ever resented 
Dizzy's pranks, because they always sprang spontaneously out of a genu- 
ine sense of fun and high spirits. 

One day in Chicago, with the thermometer registering 100 in the 
shade, the delightful Dean built a bonfire in front of the dugout and 
huddled over it wearing a blanket, rising now and then to war-whoop 
like an Indian. In St. Louis, he announced that he'd show the world 
how to cook. When curious spectators arrived to watch Diz whip up a 
fancy omelet, he pegged eggs at them eggs made of rubber and painted 

But the innumerable stunts Dizzy staged were not nearly so funny 
as his natural, everyday actions, his homely, hilarious way of speaking, 
his glorious and honest bragging, Diz was a comedian in the truest sense 
of the word, a great showman, a natural, a sort of combination Will 
Rogers and Harpo Marx. He knew he was funny. There was not the 
slightest strain or phoniness about his humor. He loved the sound of 
laughter and was big-hearted enough to want the whole world to enjoy 

Listen to Dizzy, back in 1934 before the World Series, talking to Roy 
Stockton: "OF Frank is sayin' he don't know who is gonna pitch that first 
game. But he ain't foolin' me none. I told him this afternoon that there 
wasn't no use kiddin' hisself. There is only one guy to pitch that first 

f 238 ] 

game and that's oF Diz, I guess Frisch Is trying to use what they call 
this Sikology on oF Diz, figurin' he don't want me nervous before the 
game. He can't fool me none. OF Diz never got nervous In his life about 
no ball game. Who won the pennant"? Why, me and Paul. And who's 
gonna win the Series? Me and Paul. Them Tigers is lucky if they get 
a good foul ofFn us." 

It was just Diz talking, loving the sound of his voice, generous, easy- 
going, collecting his share of yuks, wisely knowing that he reeked with 
color and was the answer to a sports reporter's prayer. Wild horses 
couldn't have dragged him away from baseball, from the sheer physi- 
cal joy of pitching, the pleasure of good company and ready ears, listen- 
ing to him say, "Boy, I sure poured it on them Pirates yesterday, OF 
Diz has sure got it. 'Course, stacked up agin my brother Paul, Fm just a 
great big semi-pro." 

Nothing hurt Dizzy more than the suggestion that he was a braggart 
or a windbag, or that he occasionally strayed from the truth. Words like 
"truth" are vague, at best, linked only to the morals of our time, and to 
Diz the truth was anything that people wanted to hear. 

He was once approached by an advertising man who offered him a 
hundred bucks to make a five-minute radio transcription about his base- 
ball career. Diz readily accepted. Ballplayers and friends sat open- 
mouthed when they heard Dizzy, who had gone only to the second 
grade in school, blandly telling the public, "I mastered the art of pitchin* 
while I was attendin' Oklahoma State Teacher's College." 

When the boys in the clubhouse asked Diz where he got off telling 
such a whopper, Diz grinned and told them that he figured that the 
advertising people who gave him the hundred dollars deserved some 
new and fresh information about him for that kind of money. 

Diz was welcomed everywhere he went, not only by people who de- 
pended on him to supply them with stories for papers, but by ballplayers 
on opposing clubs, managers, fans, and well-wishers. There was never 
an ounce of aloofness or snobbery in his make-up. He treated bankers 
the way he treated ballplayers, club presidents in the same manner as 
rookies, often to their displeasure. Before any ball game, you would be 
apt to find Diz anywhere in the stands, on the street outside, or up on 
the roof. 

Manager Bill Terry, who was always being surprised by Dean, was 
astounded one day to discover Dizzy leaning against the wall in the 
Giant dressing room at the Polo Grounds, It was just a few minutes 
before the game, and Terry was going over the St. Louis lineup. 

"You'll have to get out of here, Diz," Terry said. 'We're going over 
the St. Louis hitters." 

"Go right ahead, Bill," Diz said. "You can't learn me nothin about 
them fellahs. I know all their weaknesses." 

f 239 ] 

In doing people favors, In bending over backwards to please all those 
who thought Diz was a great guy, the madcap Dean sometimes got them 
into trouble. Three New York sportswriters were hauled on the carpet 
one day by their editors, demanding to know why each of the three 
writers had Dizzy born in a different town on a different day of the year. 

Diz had told the reporter from the Times that he was bom in Holden- 
ville, Oklahoma, on August 22. The man from the Brooklyn Eagle lis- 
tened as Diz said that he was born in Lucas, Arkansas, on January 16. 
And the reporter from the Daily News got it straight from Diz's mouth 
that he first saw the light of day in Bond, Mississippi, on January 22, 

Diz explained it this way: "Well, I liked all three of them boys. They 
was always nice to ol* Diz when it come to givin' him a good write-up. 
I figured I'd give each of them a scoop, an' that's why I mentioned these 
three different places. What was all the fussin' about, anyway? Ain't 
one place as good as another?" 

As most sports fans know "Jerome" and "Herman" were not the front 
names his own parents gave to him. How Diz happened to become 
Jerome Herman Dean is a story that gives you the true key to his char- 
acter, an incident that really shows you how generous, unselfish, and 
great-hearted he has always been, 

The pitcher the world was to know as Dizzy Dean was born in Lucas, 
Arkansas, on January 1 6, 1911, the third son of destitute, cotton-picking 
sharecroppers. His work-worn mother, with love and high hope, named 
her son Jay Hanna, after a Wall Street financier, Jay Gould, and a cele- 
brated publisher, Mark Hanna. 

Almost as soon as he could talk and move around, the gregarious kid 
with the sunny disposition was one of the best-loved boys among the 
poor tenant fanners. At the age of six or seven, when he was not even 
high enough to see over a stalk of cotton, one of Jay's friends, a boy 
his own age, took sick and died. One of the first to visit the grief-stricken 
father was young Jay Dean. He struggled for a way to console the man. 
Finally he told him that he thought so much of his friend who had died 
that he would take the boy's name for his own. And that is how he be- 
came known as Jerome Herman Dean. 

OF Diz was never being insincere or corny when he told friends and 
newspapermen, "Some of the things I seen in this here life almost cause 
my oF heart to bust right through my sweatshirt/ 7 

During the years Diz was at his height as a hurler, he seldom spoke 
of his childhood other than in a joking manner. He gave the public an 
impression of a happy-go-lucky, uneducated boy for whom the world 
had always been a choice oyster. He joked about his lack of schooling, 
his days in the cottonfields. Only those very close to him knew the inti- 
mate details of the rough and pathetic life that preceded his career in 

f 240 ] 

baseball It wasn't in Diz's heart or nature to give to his host of fans 
and followers anything but a happy, laughter-laden show* 

A talk with Dean's devoted wife, Pat, helps reveal the Dizzy Dean 
the public really never knew. She has been much more than an ordinary 
wife to him. She's been a friend, a mother, an adviser, and loyal com- 
panion for 17 rich, happy, and stormy years, 

"If you get to know Diz," she said to me, "you'll find out that there 
has been a great deal of pathos in his life." 

Getting to know Diz is not easy* It may seem easy, at first, because 
Dean is one of God's most friendly creatures warm, talkative, lively, 
and humorous. OF Diz hasn't changed very much. If it weren't for the 
graying hair and some added weight, you wouldn't be able to tell the Diz 
of today from that garrulous, lovable right-hander who was the pride 
and panic of the National League a dozen or so years ago* His large, 
blue eyes are as full of the old Ned, his speech is as droll and pungent, 
his big, heavy head wags as merrily above the powerful, slow-moving 

The first of my many talks with Diz took place at the Riviera Coun- 
try Club, a luxurious golf course in Coral Gables. He sprawled indo- 
lently on the grass near the eighth green, watching and kibitzing a hot 
and heavy golf match being waged between four friends three wealthy 
businessmen and a Hollywood actor. 

"How are ya?" the big voice boomed. "Say, you're just in time. These 
birds are some golfers. They're a-bettin' their heads off an* I wouldn't 
be surprised to see six or seven thousand a-changin' hands this after- 
noon. Ol' Diz was playin' this morning" he went on, "goin' right good, 
shoot me a 70. Don't go writin' that down now," he grinned. "None 
of these boys will want to play with ol' Diz and I plan to pick up a 
litde money in these parts. Say, I sure wish I was pitchin* ball again. 
Did you read about how I did with them St. Louie Browns? I pitched 
me four innin's and nobody reached third base. Made only 33 pitches 
and I woulda gone on and pitched the whole game if I hadn't hurt my 
leg runnin* from first to second. I was feelin' better all the time In 
there. OF Diz was gettin* faster with every pitch." 

Dizzy was talking about pitching the last game of the 1947 season 
for the St. Louis Browns. Beginning in 1942 Diz broadcast the Browns' 
games in St. Louis. The Browns, who wound up in the cellar in '47, 
caused Dizzy a great deal of displeasure. At one pointy near the end of 
the season, Diz leaned into the mike and said, "I'm sittin' up here in this 
broadcastin* booth and I should be down there* Why, even with this 
here sore arm, I could do better than them pitchers the Browns has got" 

The Brownie front office, whether in irritation or desperation, or as a 
device to lure some cash customers into the park, called Diz on his boast 
and hired him to pitch the last game of the year against the White, Sox. 


Just as Diz said, he was going great until he hurt his leg* "I led the 
league in hittin' last year/' he grinned, "One thousand percent I got. I 
come to the plate just onct and I get a hit* And we are winnin* that old 
ball game until I went and done that to my leg." 

No, OF Diz hasn't changed. During my frequent talks with Dean he 
scratched up (as Diz put it) some of the more intimate details of his 
life and times the years before, during, and after his great career as a 
pitcher. <i;< 

He was born on a rickety, wooden bed in a clapboard shack that stood 
on worked-over cotton soil, a patch of Arkansas ground that his father 
did not own and would never earn enough to own. The wife of Albert 
Monroe Dean bore five children. Diz never saw his oldest sister, Sara 
May. She died at the age of four months. His oldest brother, Charlie, 
died when he was nine years old, Diz's mother died when the boy was 
three. Elmer was then five and Paul was two years old. 

"I don't remember much about my mother," Diz said, "except some- 
times I can remember how she looked. She died of tuberculosis. Sara 
May? Well, I don't know what took her away. I know my brother 
Charlie died 'cause he wasn't able to get proper food and medicine. If 
we had them things, maybe my mother wouldn't have died either." 

Albert Dean was a migratory worker, moving his family from one 
patch of land to another, from state to state, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, 
following the crop. It was sunup to sundown work, children doing the 
work of grown men to add to the meager, below-subsistence wages, 

"My dad did the best he could," Diz said. "I never knowed a man 
who had it tougher. He was a regular pal to us kids and he hadda be 
a mother, too." 

When. Diz was six years old, alongside Bis brother Paul, who was 
four, they were planting in the fields with a team of mules. At the age 
of 10, when most kids are in the fifth grade learning geography, Diz 
was learning his lessons first-hand, riding across Oklahoma in an old 

"When I was 10 years old," he said, not without pride, *1 could do 
a man's work. I could pick me four to five hundred pounds o* cotton a 
day. Td get up at five in the mornin', set to milkin', eat me some sow- 
belly and black-eyed peas, an' go into the field. We was gettin* 25 cent 
to 50 cent a hundred for cotton in them days, and I was earnin* about 
two dollars a day, man's wages." 

It is not true, as has sometimes been jokingly printed (some joke!) 
that the Dean boy did not have a pair of shoes until he went into the 
Army. "We, Paul and Elmer and me, had one pair of shoes each," Diz 
said. "They was our Winter shoes, and we took 'em off in the Summer 
to saw the leather. That didn't hurt us none. It was warm in the Sum- 
mer. Hell, it was downright hot. What sometimes hurt us was the way 

[ 242 / 

Dad looked when the food was skimpy. We knowed how hard he 
worked and there never seemed to be enough. When I look back on it, 
like now," he said, "I sometimes wonder how we all went through it" 

Diz will tell you now that his biggest thrill, next to some of the ball 
games he has pitched, was seeing a field of cotton all picked, knowing 
that he had taken part in the labor that would bring money to the fam- 
ily. He also will tell you that there is no bond closer than that of a 
working family, those who toil together. That wonderful affection that 
Diz and Paul have always felt for each other, the loyalty and pride in 
each other's achievements, began long before either of them took to the 
big-league mounds and became famous through the strength of their 
right arms. 

The sportswxiter who tagged Paul with the name "Daffy" was both 
cute and wrong, Paul was a shy, sweet-natured, soft-spoken young man 
without an ounce of the showmanship of his older brother. The some- 
times wild and humorous things he did were done either at Diz's insti- 
gation, or because he loved the color and great spirit of the elder Dean 
and felt he should do his best to live up to his brother's reputation as 
a wag. In return for this loyalty, Diz repaid his brother with praise. 

Diz felt the same way about his older brother Elmer. It was always 
a sort of sad thing to him that Elmer could never make the grade in the 
big leagues. Even today, Diz will loyally and stoutly maintain that Elmer 
was as good a ballplayer as Paul and himself. 

"Gol darnit," Diz said, "the trouble was that Elmer hadda work too 
hard and he never got no chance to show what he could do until it was 
too late. Why, that boy was a great catcher an' infielder. He could 
whip that ol' ball around like any Dean. He just got his chance too 
late, that's all, when he was too old." 

Even at the height of their success, during their dizziest and most 
wonderful victories, the Dean boys were always in there pitching for 
their brother Elmer. On that fine day in Brooklyn, when Paul and Diz 
trounced the Dodgers, i-o and 3-1, they got in a lick about Elmer. 

"Hey," manager Casey Stengel wailed at the- end of the second game, 
"are there any more at home like you two"?" 

*Tou betcha life!" Diz sounded off. "There's my brother Elmer. Casey, 
you ought to go down there and sign him right up. He's as good as we 
two ever was. He'd be a-playin* for the Cards right now," Diz grinned, 
"but that Frisch has got his hands full o' Deans right now, more'n he 
kin handle." 

Stengel was so impressed that he looked into the matter. He discov- 
ered that Elmer was a ballplayer, but that the astute Rickey hadn't over- 
looked any bets. Branch had listened to the pep talks of Paul and Diz 
and ha$ given Elmer a tryout with the Cardinals, The oldest of the 
Dean boys, in spite of Paul's and Diz's protestations, had not been good 

I 243 ] 

enough for the big leagues. Not wanting to be separated from Ms broth- 
ers, Elmer worked as a peanut vendor in the St. Louis ball park. 

There is an oft-told story about Elmer that must be repeated in any 
chronicle of the Dean family* Its full flavor and pathos and humor can 
be experienced only when you hear it from the lips of Diz himself, who 
played a small part in the story. 

"It was back there about '24 or "25," Diz began, "and we was travelin' 
around from field to field huntin* for work. Dad an" Paul and me was 
ridin' in one car and Ol' Elmer, he was ridin* in a car behind us with 
some friends of ours. Well, we crossed some railroad tracks jest as an ol' 
freight is comin 5 . This cotton-pickin' feller drivin' the car Elmer is in, 
beheld up by the train. We was supposed to all meet in Dallas that 
night. We wait an' we wait, but they don't show up. Well, now, we 
had to hustle us up some work before we go to starving so we drive 
someplace else and get us a job." 

Diz paused and shook his heavy head. "GoF dam if we don't lose 
Elmer for four years! We sure missed 'im, but Dad ain't worried much 
'cause Elmer is a grown man an' can take care of himself. But it's kinda 
sorry without him. Elmer, he finally reads in a newspaper about me 
pitchin' a ball game in Houston and he hotfoots it to see me and we are 
all together again ever since." 

Albert Dean could never afford to stay in one place long enough for 
his sons to get an education. But, inadvertently, he did introduce them 
to something that would some day enable them to earn more money 
than many a college graduate. He taught them the game of baseball. In 
the early days of his marriage, before he had been burdened with chil- 
dren and responsibilities, Al Dean had spent several seasons playing 
third base for the Hartford ball club in Connecticut. 

"They had let Dad keep that Hartford uniform," Diz said. "He always 
carried it with him. I'll never forget how good it looked on him. It was 
a blue color and pretty, plumb wore out, but it was mighty shiny and 
fine-lookm' to us kids. We was always beggin* him to put it on," 

Al Dean couldn't buy his kids gloves and balls and bats, so he made 
them. He fashioned a bat out of hickory wood, and padded worn-out 
work gloves into fielders' mitts. "He could make the best darn baseball 
you ever seen," Diz related. "He could make a baseball outa almost any- 
thing, jest scraps of stuff, like an oY shoe tongue, a hunk of inner-tube 
for the insides, a piece of sock and mebbe some twine. He could make a 
mighty lively ball." 

The way Diz tells it, the Dean family was baseball crazy. They played 
every chance they got* They played in the failing light of dusk, after a 
day's work in the fields. They played on Sundays and sometimes, when 
traveling from job to job, they would stop the dust-covered jalopy and 
pile out on a nearby field for a game of pitch and catch. 

[ 244 } 

"I read onc't where this t Bob Feller's dad learned him how to throw a 
ball down there behind the barn on a farm in loway," Diz said. "Dad 
told us some of the rules of the game/' Diz went on, "but he sure didn't 
have to learn us how to throw that oF ball and catch it. It just came 

Unlike Feller's baseball tutelage, which was planned and serious, the 
Dean boys got their instruction in haphazard fashion. They played the 
game for relaxation and fun. Before they were in their 'teens, they were 
playing on pick-up teams with grown men, and they often served as 
"ringers" in whatever town the working family happened to be near. 

"I guess I always wanted to be a pitcher," Diz went on. "I never 
knowed much about this pro ball and gettin' paid for playing and all 
that until I was about 14. I never saw a big-league game until I played 
in one, but I heard one onc't. It was on the radio, one of them crystal 
sets. One of the neighbors built hisself one and he lemme lissen to a ball 
game. Ill never forget it. The Senators are playin' the Pirates and oF 
Walter Johnson was sure slammin* 'em in there that day. I was sure 
excited about it" 

Diz insists that the players on the Cards, who saw him pitch during 
those six glorious years with St. Louis, still missed out on seeing some of 
the greatest games he ever hurled. "When I was pitchin* in the Army, 
for the oF i2th Field Artillery, I was as good an* mebbe better than I 
was when I was up there in the National League. That ball I chucked 
for the i2th was just as full o' steam and my curve was right as rain/' 

Diz joined the Army when he was 16. He got in through the help of 
his two step-brothers, Claude and Herman, who were in the service and 
thought it would do Diz a world of good. The fact that he was two years 
under age didn't matter much then. Diz was big and strong and when 
he said he was 18 nobody doubted him. Besides, the I2th Field Artillery 
needed a pitcher. 

"I was all right so long as I was wearin* that baseball uniform the 
Army give me," Diz said. "It was the first baseball uniform I ever wore 
and I was mighty proud of it. But I had a sorry time in them fatigue 
clothes and that khaki. OF Diz jest wasn't cut out to be no soldier. I 
never could learn to make a bed proper and I had two left feet when it 
came to drillin' an' I always seemed to be a-doin' the wrong thing as far 
as them sergeants was concerned. Seems like every day I'd hike to that 
board and there was Jerome Herman Dean on the KP list. It got so that 
me an' them pots and pans were a-talkin' to each other." 

Diz served three years and nine months of a four-year hitch. With 
only three months to go, Jerome got a week's leave and journeyed to see 
his father, who was working in a cotton field near San Antonio, Texas. 
His dad had had a good year and had saved almost $600, more than he 
had ever been able to get together in his whole life. 


"Well, son/' Albeit Dean said, "by the look of your face that Army 
life ain't agreeing with you/' 

"Dad," Diz said, "it sure would make me happy to get outa there." 

"How much do you reckon it would take?" his father asked. 

"A lotta money," Diz said. "About one hunnert and twenty bucks," 

The elder Dean dug down into his pocket and came up with the 
money, instructing his son to go back to the Army and buy his way out. 

The year was 1929 and Jerome Herman Dean was 19 years old when 
he joined his Dad again in San Antonio, Texas, He took a job with the 
San Antonio Public Service, working as an assistant to a man who read 
gas meters. Dean grinned when he explained his job. "1 used to follow 
that fella around jest to keep him company and carry his tools. But I 
guess my main job was to pitch ball for that Public Service Company 

The loud thump of Dean's fast ball hitting the PS catcher's glove at- 
tracted the attention of a St. Louis Cardinal scout, Don Curtis. He 
watched Diz pitch one ball game and signed him then and there. Diz 
was shipped to St. Joseph in the Western League, won his first game, 
4-3, started a triple play, and kept the St. Joe fans in stitches with his 
wonderful antics on and off the field. 

While winning 17 games and losing only eight, the Dean kid bor- 
rowed cars from the hero-worshipping citizens and, driving pell-mell 
through the streets, wound up in the cubbyhole provided by the Chief 
of Police. The chief, like everyone else, couldn't resist his charm and let 
him out. He registered and paid bills at three sleeping places, the 
YMCA, the St. Francis Hotel, and the Hotel Robidoux, explaining that 
he wanted to be handy to a bed whenever he felt like hitting the sack. 
Oliver French, the club's business manager, was still trying to straighten 
out Dizzy's bills when the startling young fireballer was transferred to 
Houston in the Texas League. 

Diz made his debut in Houston by pitching a 12-1 victory. The next 
day, the story all over town was about how Jerome Herman Dean had 
apologized for his performance to Fred Ankenman, who owned the 
Houston ball club. "That sure was a sorry game I pitched yestaday, Mr* 
Ankenman," Diz said. "Can you imagine me allowin' them fellahs to get 
a run ofFn me? It ain't gonna happen again." 

In the history of Houston, there has never been a ballplayer of such 
astounding popularity as Dizzy Dean. The tall-talking, big-hearted Tex- 
ans took Diz into their homes and their hearts. In those days, Diz fancied 
himself quite a fighter due to a one-blow knockout he had administered 
to a strapping bully of the Pueblo team during his career with St. Joseph. 
Diz wanted to prove to the Houston fans what a rough and ready boy he 
was, and he loves to tell the story of his scrap with a ballplayer named 

f 246 ] 

"This here Todd," Diz relates, "gets a hit ofFn me, which makes me 
mad. So the next time he comes up I chuck a ball at his bean. This 
makes him mad an' he drops his bat and comes out to the mound toward 
me. I get all ready to do some jawin' with him. I got a dandy wise crack 
all ready for him. But he fools me. He hauls off and whacks me one on 
the whiskers. Down I go. I get up figurin 3 that he is sure to go to talkin* 
now, but he lets me have another one and down I go again, a-seein' stars 
up there in the sun. Well, he never did go to talkin* and I never got so 
tired of being knocked down. OF Diz sure lost that one," 

The great-hearted, good-humored way he took the licking from Todd 
endeared him even more to the Houston fans. There was not much re- 
joicing in the Texas city when Diz, in less than a year, pitched his way 
into the major leagues. The St. Louis Cards brought him up at the tail- 
end of the 1930 season, and the players on the club grew slap-happy 
with glee listening to Diz tell how he was going to wrap the ball around 
the necks of those big-league hitters. 

The Gas House Gang loved Diz before he ever pitched a ball game 
for them. He was their kind of ballplayer, loud, fun-loving, supremely 
confident. But Gabby Street, then the Card manager, a rather dour, 
skeptical, ex-Army sergeant, never did take to Dean's ways very much. 
With a deep desire to tone Diz down, he picked the roughest opponent 
he could for the young rookie, sending him in on a September day in 
1930 to tame the hard-hitting Pirates, 

In the first inning, the Pittsburgh club pasted Diz for two hits. When 
he trooped back to the bench, Gabby Street presented him with a smirk- 
ing face. That didn't sit very well with oF Diz, who marched back out 
and from that inning on pitched almost perfect ball, allowing the Pirates 
only one more hit and winning the game. 

In 1931, Diz turned up for Spring training in Bradenton, Florida^ as 
big as life and as full of the old breeze as a sideshow barker. Life was a 
glorious, free V easy thing now, and OF Diz didn't mind telling all and 
sundry folk that he was goin* to stand the National League on its ear* 

Right from scratch, he ran into trouble with the grumbling Gabby. 
When Diz grew a little lax about reporting to practice on time, Street 
would let go a vituperative barrage that reminded Diz of his Army days. 
It was touch and go all the time, with Diz threatening every other day 
to take mind and body back to Houston where he was appreciated. 

The players who had such a deep affection for the Dean kid were 
always trying to patch things up between Dean and Street Diz would 
try to get along with the manager, then give up in disgust and go fishing, 
announcing that "this here Street is the goF damdest, most insultin' bird 
I ever knowed. I don't likely think I kin ever play ball f er him. The way 
he treats OF Diz is a shame," 

Toward the end of Spring training, Diz had to undergo a tonsil opera- 


tion, and Gabby Street sighed with relief, believing that the trip to the 
hospital would not only quiet Diz down but perhaps put him out of 
action for awhile. He didn't know his Dizzy Dean from his elbow. Diz 
bounced out of the hospital with a bang, saying, "No little thing like 
faavin' my tonsils out is gonna keep OF Diz down. If that Street gives me 
half a chance, I'm gonna win us at least 30 games this year." 

Diz made his first appearance of the 1931 Spring training campaign, as 
a relief pitcher. With the Cards leading the world champion Athletics 
by a narrow 5-4, in an exhibition game, and with the A's staging a rally. 
Gabby crooked a finger at Diz. The pitcher got off the bench and, as he 
passed Street on his way to the mound, he said, "Don't worry none, Gab. 
These guys couldn't hit me with a handful o' birdshot." 

The first Philly batter that Diz faced rapped a screaming double to 
left field. Diz grinned. Then he turned around and grinned again, so the 
bleacher fans could see it, too. And then that great, wonderful, goofy 
character struck out the next three batters. Street could hardly be held 
when OF Diz filled the bases the next inning, then fanned the next two 
men and retired the third on an easy infield pop fly to win the ball game. 

The home fans didn't get a glimpse of dynamite Dean's delivery in 
1931. Just as the season got under way, Diz was shipped back to Hous- 
ton, At the time, the sportswriters' version of Dizzy's dismissal was that 
the pitcher was sent down to save Street from the nut house. It was also 
rumored that the way Diz was handling his financial affairs was causing 
the strict, cautious Branch Rickey some sleepless nights. It is true that 
the slip of paper called a "check" was a new and wonderfully magic 
thing to the once poverty-stricken Diz. When the pieces of paper wound 
up in El Brancho's office, the Deacon was fit to be tied. 

Let it be said in defense of OF Diz that no man deserved the rich, full 
life more than the kid who had slaved in the cotton fields. And yet, 
money did not really mean anything to the free-spending Diz money 
wasn't anything at all, it just sort of quieted the nerves. It was mighty 
fine to be able to write checks for fancy togs and good meals and a spot 
of fun. 

It was during this time that Rickey, through the club secretary, Clar- 
ence Lloyd, put Diz on the famous "Dollar-a-Day" allowance. That was 
just what Diz received, one dollar a day. The single piece of greenery 
was dished out to him every morning and was generally spent by eleven 
o'clock. Which caused Diz to moan and wail, not without reason, that 
he was being treated mighty poorly. 

Although he still feels sort of sour on Sam Breadon, the ex-owner of 
the Cards, Diz bears no malice toward Rickey, *Tou could never say OF 
Branch was free with a dollar," Diz grinned, "but he did try to get me to 
save my money." Diz suddenly began to laugh, "Boy, oh boy! I remem- 
ber one day I was a-standin' in the clubhouse yellin' and rootin' around 

f 248} 

about OF Breadon and how he was starvin' me. I was sayin' that this 
Breadon is the tightest oF coot what ever lived, and a-callin' him names, 
when somebody taps me on the shoulder. I never seen this Breadon until 
then and there he was as big as life an* he says to me, 'Just what is the 
trouble, Dean?' Well, I was in it then, so I says that this here Breadon is 
a mean old so-and-so who should be givin* me two dollars a day instead 
of one. He says to me, 'Come up to my office, Dean/ " 

Diz adjourned to the privacy of Sam Breadon's office and the ball- 
players who were in the clubhouse that day will never forget the tri- 
umphant look on Dizzy's face when he came back into the room a half- 
hour or so later. 

"What happened, Diz?" Andy High asked. 

"I got the two bucks!" Dean said, hoisting the money aloft. 

It broke up the clubhouse. Players were still holding their sides and 
rolling around the floor when Diz went out with his two bucks to paint 
the town red. Not long after that he was sent back to the Texas League. 

Diz did not return to Houston chastened in spirit. He went back in 
triumph and was welcomed as a hero, the fans packing the ball park 
and cheering their heads off as Dizzy showed the crowd he was better'n 
any pitcher the major leagues had. He might have been, at that. He 
won 26 games for Houston that year, and lost only 10 which is pretty 
fair pitching. 

The year in Houston was not only the best thing that ever happened 
to Diz, it was one of the happiest years in his life. Shortly after he re- 
turned he met Patricia Nash, the girl who was to play such an impor- 
tant part in his life, help him over so many rough spots, and insure for 
the happy-go-lucky ballplayer a life of security. But let's let Diz tell 
about the meeting and courtship. 

"Just after I get to Houston," Diz said, "I go into PauFs Shoe Store 
where my stepbrother's wife is working. I set my eyes on this girl 
behind the hosiery counter and I ask my brother who is that pretty 
black-haired girl? His wife introduces her to me and I ast her for a date, 
and one week from that day we get married, and me and 'Mom/ that's 
what I always call her, we been together ever since and we always 
will be. 

"GoF darn/' Diz grinned, "that was some courtin'! I was broke, as 
usual, and I just had to make an impression on Pat. Jest before our first 
date I go to a car dealer in town and I tell him my troubles. He says, 
'Don't you worry none, Diz. You just take this brand-new automobile 
here it was a Hupmobile and you can pay me on time/ Boy, I sure 
thought that would make a hit with her! I drive up as smart and sassy as 
ever and I say, 'Lookee here, this is what Fm buying you for a wedding 
present/ You know what she done? She just give me a look and she 
says, 'Diz, you drive that automobile right back to where you got it. It's 

f 249 1 

high, time you plan on savin* your money for the future and you can't 
afford this car/ That's the Idnda girl Mom was." 

Diz took the car back. A few nights later, in a borrowed car, somewhat 
less flashy, he turned up for another date. "I never did no drmkin'," Diz 
said, "but I bought me a bottle this night, figuring I'd do a little showin' 
off. Well, we are drivin* along and I take out this bottle and start to 
take a drink. Pat just snatches it outa my hands and tosses it out the 
window, and she says, 'Baseball players shouldn't drink/ And, gol' darn, 
anyone will tell you that OF Diz never took a drink from that day until 
he hurt his arm back there in 1937." 

The future Mrs. Dean was actually making more money than Diz 
was when they got married a week from the day they met Diz confesses 
to borrowing two dollars to pay for the marriage license. In more ways 
than one, it was the wisest investment he has ever made. Pat came to see 
him pitch for the first time on the day they were married and, on and 
off the diamond, she has been with him heart and soul ever since. 

"We had to borrow money to start our married life together," she said, 
"but I've never regretted a moment of it. Diz always made me feel as 
though he needed me. Diz has always leaned over backwards to give me 
credit for helping him, but don't forget you can't help a person who 
doesn't want to be helped. Diz always wanted help and advice. We've 
always gotten along beautifully. We're sort of like ham. and eggs, Diz 
and I." 

Even under Pat's watchful eye, Dizzy's irrepressible, showy spirit 
could not be curbed. In '32 and '33, with Street in the driver's seat, OF 
Diz and his hi-jinks clipped along at a merry pace. He missed trains, 
drew fines, made outlandish statements to the press and won 18 games 
in 1932. and 20 the next year. There were numerous squabbles over 
money, which is not hard to understand when you consider that the 
magnificently generous Breadon was paying the National League's most 
colorful attraction $3,000 per year. 

In 1933, Diz was not gathering unto himself much of that coin of the 
realm. But he consoled himself by playing Peck's Bad Boy and having a 
barrel of fun. Along with his playful friend, Pepper Martin, Diz's imag- 
inative pranks sent many a shiver up and down the conservative Branch 
Rickey's spine. There was that beautiful incident in the dining-room 
and kitchen of the swank Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. 

Just as the dinner hour was getting under way, in stormed Diz, Pep- 
per, and Heine Schuble, decked out in greasy workmen's clothes, look- 
ing like a combination of railroad brakemen and members of the paint- 
er's union. The three wags proceeded to renovate the dining room, 
pounding and hammering and swinging ladders around. Then they 
went to the kitchen and raised such merry hell that three of the cooks 
tried to assassinate them. 


As one Cardinal ballplayer, who is still playing ball and shall remain 
nameless, said: "Branch and Breadon used to roll their eyes and shake 
their fingers and tell newspapermen how unmanageable Diz was. But at 
private luncheons, and among their friends, they were always telling 
funny stories about OF Diz, helping to make him a whacky figure. And 
they were taking in plenty of cash at the gate on the marvelous person- 
ality and color Dean had/' 

The Cardinal owners also had Dizzy Dean to thank for bringing them 
another great pitcher in his brother Paul. Diz talked it up about Paul 
and was mostly responsible for bringing his brother into the big league. 

"Just after I broke into the majors/' Diz said, "Paul and Dad was 
pickin' cotton down in El Campo, Texas. I take a scout with me and we 
go to see 'em. Do you know where Paul signed his Cardinal contract? 
He signed right down there in the middle of a cotton field at El Campo/' 

Along with the year Babe Ruth whacked the 60 homers, there has 
never been a more exciting year in baseball than 1934, the season Diz 
and Paul Dean were at their absolute height 

Diz was not bragging, he was just stating it straight from the heart 
when he said at the start of the 1934 season, "Paul and me are the best 
pitchers in the National League, and between us we'll win 45 games/' 
By the middle of August, they had won 37 games. When the Dean boys 
hung up their gloves that year, they had a total of 49 victories between 
them, 30 for Diz, 19 for the kid brother, including four crucial World 
Series wins! 

That was the first year Frankie Frisch managed the Cards. Frisch 
loved the Dean boys, but this did not spare him the routine of standing 
before the mirror each morning to see what brand new gray hair had 
sprouted as a result of Diz's and Paul's latest hinky-dink. 

There was that day in Chicago when the boys were feeling rather sad 
because of their lowly salaries and, between them, had dropped a double 
header to the Cubs, 2-1 and i~o. When Frisch counted noses on the 
train that night, Paul and Diz were not in the line-up. They were relax- 
ing at a party on the outskirts of Chicago. 

Before going AWOL, the Deans had staged a show in the Cards 1 
dressing room. Surrounded by reporters, they posed for pictures, tearing 
up their uniforms to the accompaniment of Diz's dialogue about how 
Breadon and Rickey were underpaying him and his brother, Paul. Frisch 
fined the boys $100 apiece while Rickey and Breadon clucked their 
tongues. The Deans went to see Judge Landis, who upheld the fine. 

'We went on strike again a little later," Diz said. "Why, between us, 
we was only gettin' $10,500 a year salary. Can you imagine, Paul is 
winnin' all those ball games and he is being paid only $3,000 per year. 
All I got to tell you is that Frankie got us together with Ol' Branch, and 
Paul gets hisself a $2,500 raise/' 

[251 ] 

You won't find a ballplayer in either league who will tell you that 
Diz and Paul weren't worth twice what they were being paid. It is true 
that they were making plenty of outside money on exhibition games and 
endorsements, but that was through their own efforts. At the close of 
the 1934 season, when the Deans had pitched the Cards to the world 
championship, the St. Louis front office magnanimously offered each of 
them a $500 bonus. 

"Paul was plumb disgusted/' Diz grinned. "He wasn't gonna take the 
money. Take it, Paul/ 1 tells him, 'that's all you're gonna get/ " 

In '32 and '33, Diz was paid $3,000 per season. In '34, when he won 
30 games, he was upped to $7,500, In 1935, he got a raise to $18,500, 
and he was paid $27,500 in 1936 and 1937. The total sum in salary the 
Card management paid him in six years is less than Bob Feller has re- 
ceived for one season with the Indians. 

Diz did get some lovely and inspiring letters from Branch Rickey dur- 
ing his latter years with the Redbirds. After one of Diz's escapades, 
Rickey wrote him, saying in part, that Diz should not "arrogate to him- 
self the prerogatives of Frankie Frisch, but with the eagerness of a sol- 
dier in the ranks, put his shoulder to the wheel and strive for the com- 
mon cause/' 

When Diz got the high-sounding letter translated, he made one of 
baseball's most classic comments. "My shoulder is lopsided on one side 
from that wheel," Diz lamented. "What does Mr. Rickey want me to do 
play the outfield and lead the boys' band?" 

"Jack," Diz said, smiling, "I just want to say that they sure worked me 
in 1934. 1 was as skinny as you. Why, I worked in 50 ball games, and at 
the end of the season OF Diz was down to 161 pounds." 

In fairness to the St. Louis club, it must be admitted that Diz seldom 
railed against pitching a game of baseball. He believed that he could 
pitch and win a ball game every day in the year and, by his own admis- 
sion, "Baseball was never no work to me/' But it would seem to any 
objective observer that a wiser management would have had a little more 
mercy on the Great Man's arm and spirit. 

"I guess the trouble with me/* Diz said, in the course of one of our 
talks, "was that I jest loved to throw that ball. Why, I would get out 
there an' pitch battin' practice an* then go in there an' pitch a goi darn 
ball game. I never paid much attention to the batters I was pitchin* to, 
except them Waner boys, Paul and Lloyd. Them two Pirates was always 
the toughest on Ol' Diz. An' them Cubs, as a team, were always rough. 
They're the only club in the National League who beat me more games 
than I beat them." 

Nobody will ever know whether Diz considered himself a greater 
pitcher than Paul. Paul was a Dean, and how could you be greater than 
a Dean? As much as Paul loved and respected Diz, the older brother's 


sense of humor did get under his skin once. It was a day in St. Louis 
and Paul, on the mound, was not quite at his best. 

"Them hitters/' Diz said, "were catchin' hold of that ball and linin' 
them drives past Paul's head. They weren't gettin' no hits. The fielders 
were catchin' em. But they sure were sockin' that oV ball. I got to kiddin' 
Paul an' long about the fifth innin' I yelled out to him, 'Hey, boy, you 
better tie yourself to that rubber!' Paul got mad as fire and he walks ofFn 
the mound an' he comes in to me and he planks that ball in my hand 
and he says, 'Diz, if you kin do better, get out there and do it' Well," 
Diz laughed, "there was no thin' for me to do but go out there an* pitch, 
We won that one together, Paul an' me." 

Diz's colorful clowning always overshadowed the fact that he was one 
of baseball's most clean-living athletes, a man who took pride in keeping 
himself in great shape. If he had any faults, it was a love for playing 
poker, which, in a ballplayer, is as natural a habit as spitting in a glove. 
Diz was as carefree and reckless in a poker game with the boys as he was 
on the mound. He still loves to gamble, betting wildly on almost every 
golf match he plays. 

It wasn't until 1934 that Albert Monroe Dean, who gave baseball two 
great pitchers, saw his first big-league ball game. "I always figured," Diz 
said, "that Dad didn't want to see me in action up there, until Paul was 
workin' alongside me. You know, he always thought that OF Paul was a 
better pitcher than me. Paul being the baby of the family," Diz philoso- 
phized, "it was only natural for him to have them sentiments." 

Diz and Paul sent their father the money to make a plane trip from 
Houston, where he was working, to St. Louis to see the 1934 World 
Series games between the Cardinals and the Tigers. "Dad took a bus/' 
Diz grinned, "because he said it was cheaper." 

The father watched his two sons win the first two games against the 
Tigers. After the second game, he joined them in the dressing room, 
clapped them both on the back, and said, "I don't think I'll go on to 
Detroit with you. You two boys got them under control an' I'd better get 
on back to work." 

In 1935 and 1936, Albert Dean's boys still "had 'em under control." In 
those two years, Diz racked up 52 wins and Paul hurled 24 victories. 
Paul won only five games in '36, but it looked as though Diz's talk and 
his performances would actually go on forever. 

The axe fell on July 7, 1937, in Griffith Stadium in the city of Wash- 
ington. The Great Man, Dizzy Dean, took the mound to pitch for the 
All-Star team of the National League against the American League. 

Diz was in his glory when that ball game started. His big grin was 
never more in evidence as he stood up there on the mound a-foggin' 
them in. Until the third inning it was a close game, the sort of give-and- 
take competition Ol* Diz loved. With two out in the third inning, Earl 

[253 J 

Averill came to the plate. He connected with one of Dizzy's fast balls 
and sent a sizzling line drive straight at the mound. It struck Diz in the 
left foot. He went down, got up again, his face twisted with pain. 

Diz stayed in the game. He didn't know it then, but the ball had 
broken his big toe. He stayed in there and tried to pitch, each motion an 
agony. In pain, trying to keep his speed, Diz wrenched his arm on a 
follow-through motion. That one throw, after all of the years of heaving 
a baseball over cotton-field land and the smooth dirt of National League 
ball parks, was the throw that ruined one of the greatest pitching arms 
of our time, He was never the same after that one pitch. 

But you couldn't keep Diz down. Without proper rest or care, with 
his foot still bothering him, Diz stuck out the year with the Cards and 
trotted dutifully to the mound every time he was summoned. But he 
was through, irrevocably through. He dropped from 24 wins in 1936 to 
a mere (for him) 13 victories in 1937. 

"I know that one pitch was what did it," Dean said. "I was kiddin' 
myself in there after that. I didn't want to believe I was through. Maybe 
a rest, layin* off pitchin' might have helped. I dunno. Maybe not." 

After he injured his arm, the Cards didn't keep Diz with them for 
very long. At the start of the 1938 season, they sold him to owner Phil 
Wrigley of the Chicago Cubs. Breadon got $185,000 in cash, an out- 
fielder, and two pitchersone of them Curt Davis, who won 20 games 
for the Cardinals. It was the biggest baseball deal since 1934, when the 
Red Sox gave Washington $250,000 and infielder Lyn Lary for Joe 

"I never worked for a finer man than Mr. Wrigley," Diz said. "Brea- 
don and Rickey knew I wasn't in shape when they sold me to the Cubs. 
That didn't seem to matter to Mr. Wrigley. He told me, Diz, we're just 
glad to have you with us/ And he paid me as much money in three years 
as the Cards did in seven." 

Wrigley sent Diz to Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. The doctors 
told Dean that he was suffering from an inflammatory condition of the 
deltoid muscle (near the shoulder) a stretched and inflamed muscle in 
the back, and a subdeltoid bursitis aggravated by a spreading sinus con- 
dition. They told Diz that he was through as a pitcher. Diz refused to 

How could he quit, reading what Wrigley had told newspapermen; 
"I am satisfied that we have purchased the game's greatest playing attrac- 
tion, on or off the field. We got Dizzy's spirit, courage, and enthusiasm, 
in addition to his arm." 

So Dizzy insisted on staying in there and pitching. He won seven 
games and lost only one for the Cubs in 1938. But here the records are 
no indication of the way he was pitching. He started many games for 
Charlie Grimm, games he could not finish because of the pain in his 

f 254 ] 

shoulder. And the victories he did mark up were bought at a terrible 
price of misery, games he had to pitch on nothing but pure guts* 

The Cubs won the National League pennant in 1938, the first year 
Diz was with them. Every player on that club will tell you that al- 
though Dizzy's right arm wasn't much help, his fight and spirit were 
felt. The Cubs played the Yankees for the world championship and that 
series brought about the most tragic moment in Dizzy Dean's career. 
Diz just had to pitch in that World Series. It wouldn't be right for Ol' 
Diz to sit on the sidelines in the Series. 

For eight excruciating innings in the second game, Dizzy Dean stayed 
on the mound throwing them in there. With his arm aching and his 
speed gone, the matchless Dean held down the big bats of the Yankees. 
With two away in the eighth, with the Cubs leading 3-2, with only four 
more possible batters to face, it looked as though Diz would do the im- 
possible, win a last World Series game and go out in a blaze of glory. 

There was a Yankee on first base. Frankie Crosetti came to the plate. 

^Geeze," Diz said, his face suddenly sad, "a-comin* up was somethin* 
that was going to cause me the lowest moment in my life. I knowed my 
arm was gone. I couldn't break a pane of glass. But Crosetti never was a 
powerful hitter, so I figured I had a chance/' 

Crosetti hit Dizzy's first ball over the right-field fence. It senf the 
Yanks ahead, 4-3, and broke up the ball game. As Frankie trotted toward 
first base, Diz stood on the mound a beaten, tragic, hopeless, and utterly 
pathetic figure. But, as Crosetti rounded second, some of that wonderful, 
indomitable Dean spirit came back. He squared his shoulders and 
cupped his hands in the direction of the runner* 

"Frank," Diz yelled. <( l wish I could call back one year. You wouldn't 
get a loud foul off'n me!" 

And, without breaking his stride, Crosetti called back, "Diz, you're 
sure right!" 

There were many wet eyes in the grandstand and bleachers that day. 
And the Cubs on the bench couldn't bear to look at each other. 

"That was the longest, most terrible ball game I've ever watched/* 
Dizzy Dean's wife said. "That was the high and the low, watching Diz 
in there for eight innings with nothing but a glove and a prayer. I could 
see the pain on Diz's face as he threw each ball. I knew, after that game, 
that he was through. It was a terrible thing to know." 

Diz stayed with the Cubs through 1939. He won only six games and 
lost four. But die Chicago fans loved him as much, if not more, than he 
had been idolized by the St. Louis rooters when he had been at the 
height of his glory. "They loved Diz not for what he did," Mrs. Dean 
said quietly, "but for what he tried so hard to do and couldn't." 

In 1940, after eight full seasons in the major leagues, Dizzy Dean was 
sent down to Tulsa. A less courageous man might have bowed out then. 


His overhand delivery was completely shot. But Diz still wouldn't quit. 
He announced that he would "learn to throw that oF ball underarm, 
work up a new delivery." He and Patricia told the world that "they 
would be back." He went down to the Texas League, where he had 
started, where, as a loud and lovable kid, he had bedazzled fans with his 
blinding speed and sinking curves. 

But the Great Man was through. No amount of toil, encouragement 
or prayer could restore the once powerful right arm. Ol' Diz, once the 
pride of the National League, just managed to break even in Tulsa, 
winning eight and losing eight. Recalled late in August, he won three 
and lost three for the Cubs. Then he was finished. That was the end of 
the line. 

The world now knows Dizzy Dean as a successful sports announcer. 
Few know how he happened to get the job. It is probably the most won- 
derful of all the Dean stories, the most throat-catching and happy. It 
began during a time when Diz was at the height of his success, when 
his arm was still strong and he was surrounded by friends and well- 

One night in 1935, Diz attended a barbecue given by the president of 
the Falstaff Brewing Company of St. Louis. At the affair, Diz got to 
talking to a young man who was suffering from infantile paralysis. Dur- 
ing the conversation, Diz learned that the young man was, in spite of 
the affliction, still working. The pitcher asked him how he managed to 
get around. 

"Friends come with me," the young man said. "They drive my car and 
help me in and out of places." 

"Tell you what," Diz said instantly. "We ain't playin* a game tomor- 
row. Suppose I make the rounds with you. I kin dirive and help you out 


The next afternoon, and on several free afternoons after that, Diz 
turned up to drive the young man around and help out. They became 
fast friends. Then Diz went to the Cubs and didn't see the young man 
for several years. One day in 1941, the president of the Falstaff Brewing 
Company was meeting with the board to discuss the possibility of hiring 
someone to broadcast the St. Louis ball games. His son, the young man 
who had infantile paralysis, suddenly spoke up and said, "Dad, what 
about Diz? I think he'd be great" 

And that was how Dizzy Dean became a sportscaster in St. Louis. 

As a baseball announcer, Diz is great. Ten years after he was picked 
as the best pitcher and most valuable player of the year, Diz was given 
an award as the best baseball announcer on the air. 

Becoming an announcer didn't change the Dean personality in the 
slightest. He brought to the mike all the color, humor, high, sprats, and 
unpredictable type of performance that he once exhibited on, the dia- 

f 255 J 

mond. His unorthodox vocal delivery, his free and easy manner, his deep 
love and knowledge of baseball, and the way he manhandles the King's 
English has earned him an amazing number of fanatical followers. 

The irrepressible Dean has delighted his listeners with the casual un- 
grammatical, folksy Americana that once used to send players, fans, and 
managers into such appreciative and hysterical laughter. Ol' Diz has, for 
some years now, had "everything under control" up there in the broad- 
casting booth that overlooks the ball park. 

Diz is a very bright guy and he could, if he wanted to strain and 
sound unnatural, tell the people about a ball game in pretty fair English. 
But Diz feels that people want to know what is happening in a game, 
that this is much more important than an announcer struggling for just 
the correct, descriptive word. 

And let me ask you, what describes a ballplayer's action better than 
Diz saying, as he often has, "He slud into third base and he was throwed 
out/* Or, "That was a foul ball, folks, an' the players has returned to 
their respectable bases/' 

Bob Hope's gag writers would have a tough time topping Dizzy when 
it comes to tickling his audience with a funny line. During a lull in one 
of the games, Diz casually remarked, "The reason I ain't pitchin' no 
more, folks, is because I had so much trouble with them right- and left- 
handed hitters." 

When it comes to telling you why he speaks the way he does, Diz 
likes to quote a hero of his, the late Will Rogers. 'Will onc't said, 'A 
lot of a people who don't say ain't ain't eating" Diz grinned, "I'm 
gonna keep on sayin' ain't an' keep on eatinV 

Diz may stumble over the big words, but his picturesque language 
creates the sort of images that all baseball fans enjoy. A runner at first 
base is "out by a heifer step." A star like Ted Williams is described as 
"Loose Goose Williams." And when the game begins to drag, Diz talks 
to the people about his ranch in Texas, inviting them all down, de- 
scribing it as, "A Texas penthouse, an' you know what that is, folks. 
That's a hog-pen with Venetian blinds." 

The Great Man sometimes admits to making a faux yas on the air. 
During the war, there was a security order issued to all announcers, 
warning them not to mention anything about the weather conditions 
during, before or after a game. 

"We get out to the park one day," Diz laughed,^ "an it was rainin like 
there was a hole in the sky. While we was waitin' for it to clear, Johnny 
O'Hara goes on and talks 'til he is plumb wore out. Then he turns it 
over to me and I go to talkin'. I let the cat outa the bag that day. I jest 
couldn't help it. I said, 'Folks, we can't tell you why this game is being 
held up, but if you'll jest sticks yer necks outa the window, youll find 
out.' Boy, was that an error!" 


By 1943, Diz had created a vast radio audience, particularly among 
the younger element of St. Louis, Then trouble began to plague him in 
the form of the St. Louis school teachers. These hard-working exponents 
of high-falutin' language became appalled by the manner in which 
many of their students began to express themselves. Their 10- and 12- 
year-olds informed teacher that a ballplayer "throwed and slud," and 
wouldn't be caught dead "sliding or throwing/' 

The teachers traced this deplorable (to them) use of English to one 
Jerome Herman Dean, a sports announcer who, in their opinion, was 
having "a simply atrocious effect in the matter of influencing the speech 
of our children," The teachers banded together and made a determined 
effort to have Dizzy Dean removed from the air. 

The moppets who listened to Dean, who loved and idolized him, were 
terrified by the thought of never being able to hear again the voice of 
this great-hearted, baseball-wise gent who had been teaching them so 
many fascinating things about the game. The teachers were adamant. 

"He is butchering the English language," they wailed. "Our children 
are beginning to speak the way he does." 

It went all the way up to the Mayor's office. 

Then Diz took the matter in his own large hands. 

He went on the air one afternoon, his voice choking with emotion, 
and addressed the teachers of the city of St. Louis. 

"All I kin say," Diz began, "is that I believe in education. I wisht that 
I hadda been able to get an education. But my mother died when I was 
three years old, an* I hadda go chop and pick cotton to make enough 
money fer black-eyed peas and sourbelly. I hadda work to make enough 
to eat on* I really wisht \ coulda got an education. I woulda gone to 
school if I had been able," 

Diz's simple speech hit the St. Louis schoolmarms where they lived. 
All that week, letters poured in to Dizzy, letters from teachers apologiz- 
ing for the attitude they had taken, sympathizing, stating that their com- 
plaint had been withdrawn and that they would do all they could to 
atone for the injustice they had done to him. 

"It was agreed," Diz sighed, happily, "that the teachers would learn 
them kids English, an" I would learn 'em baseball." 

But Diz, in spite of his success at the mike, is still a pitcher first and a 
sports announcer second. Half the population of St. Louis lays claim to 
die fact that they have played in a ball game in which OF Diz was the 
pitcher. It is almost true. 

Whenever Dizzy can get away from his current job, he journeys 
around the country playing in exhibition games, hard and soft ball. He 
plays on invitation, or just because he "happens to be around" where 
a game of baseball is being played and the greatest pitcher in the world 
is needed. 

f 258 ] 

"Doggone," Diz said, "Pat and I will be drivin' along and Fll see a ball 
game and I jest have to stop the car and go to pitchin'. I jest can't seem 
to pass a ball game without gettin' into it" 

Patricia, the pitcher's wife, will back up this statement 100 percent. 
The Deans live in the suburbs of St. Louis and all the kids for blocks 
around know the house where Dizzy Dean lives. "Along about five in 
the evening," Mrs. Dean said, "they ring the doorbell and ask me if Diz 
can come out and play ball with them. I've never known him to refuse," 

And the sort of picture of Dizzy Dean to leave in your mind should be 
a scene in the suburbs of St. Louis. Dusk is just settling down over a 
sandlot and the Great Man is out there on the mound, supremely happy, 
surrounded by kids with stars in. their eyes, waiting to swing at one of 
the balls he throws to them. 

The big kid from the cottonfields of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas 
stands in the fading light of day and pitches to the kids who are grow- 
ing up in Gas House Gang town, the place where Dizzy Dean was once 
a supreme hero, the Great Diz. And you can bet your last dollar that 
while OF Diz is tossin' them in there to the kids, he is also telling them 
about how it was when the oY arm was really right and he was standin' 
them National League batters on their ears. 

f 259 ] 



THE story of Joe Louis, from Golden Gloves to a world's cham- 
pion who ran out of challengers, is the story of a struggle both in 
and out of the ring. Under constant pressure, against great obsta- 
cles, Joe has done more for the sport of boxing than any fighter who ever 
laced on a glove. 

And the kid from the cottonfields of Alabama and the streets of De- 
troit has done more to help the cause of the Negro people than any 
athlete in the long and bitter history of that race. 

Joe has been famous a long time now. He defended his title 25 times. 
He put it up for every contender to poke at more times than any heavy- 
weight champion in ring history. Joe Louis in his middle thirties is an 
old fighter turned promoter. It was back on June 25th, 1935, in the 
Yankee Stadium, that Joe smashed the massive Primo Camera to the 
canvas in the sixth round and became the most talked about boxer of 
his generation. 

All through the years, Joe made it seem easy to do the things no other 
champion ever had done. He made it seem like falling off a log. It wasn't 
easy. For over a decade Joe Louis was the champion and he had his 
problems and the tough decisions that went with the rank. 

Shortly after the first Louis-Conn match, in June of 1941, the two 
fighters met outside the ring. Billy was not a beaten fighter. He told Joe 
he would take him next time. The two men kidded each other for a few 
minutes, then Conn said, "J oe ? I wish I could have that tide for a couple 
of years." "Billy," Joe said softly, "I reckon you had it for twelve rounds, 
and you didn't exactly know what to do with it" 

Anyone who understands Louis knows he wasn't making a light joke. 
He was telling the man who might have become champion that the job 
of being champ requires keeping your head at all times, that it means a 
great deal of responsibility, and that it's a large load to carry. 

Ever since the night he went to dreamland via Max Schmeling's thud- 
ding right, Joe always has kept his right hand high, his guard up. 

f 260 ] 

Out of the ring, Joe is a very careful guy. Few white people know the 
champion as he really is. All they know is that Joe is a quiet man who 
usually seems to say the right thing. They know about the poker face, 
the fact that he likes to play golf. They know that he loves his mother 
and bought her a beautiful home in Detroit, that he was married to 
Marva Trotter and later was divorced. They know the superficial things 
about the man, but that's all. 

The only time Joe Louis is completely himself is when he is among 
his own people. One of Joe's friends is a Negro newspaper photographer 
named Billy Rowe, who covered the Pacific war from Guadalcanal to 
Tokyo for the Pittsburgh Courier. "That dead-pan expression is just a 
front," Billy said. "Joe. really lets go when he's among people with whom 
he is really at ease. The poker face is for the public. With us he laughs, 
talks his head off, has a great time. But Joe feels that his expressions in 
public must always be dignified and correct. Everything he does must be 
a credit to the position he holds and to the people he represents/' 

Rowe revealed that Louis has long been one of the softest touches in 
the fight game. Billy told of an afternoon in a Chicago hotel when more 
than a dozen people, white and black, drifted in and walked out with 
some of Joe's money in their pockets. 

George Webber, Joe's bodyguard, recalled a morning when a seedy- 
looking man stood at the gate of Louis' training camp and yelled for the 
champion. Webber, sensing another touch, went out to put the chase 
on him. 

While he was arguing with the stranger, Joe walked into view. "Hey, 
champ! " the man yelled. Joe strolled over. "You remember me/' the man 
said. "I met you while you was making a tour of the Army camps, and 
you told me if I ever needed a job to drop around." 

"I don't remember that/' Joe said, "but if you say I said it, it must be 
true." Louis explained that there wasn't a job available, but he gave the 
stranger a 2o-dollar bill. 

There is nothing of the show-off in any of the Louis gestures. Joe 
simply likes people and is unusually soft-hearted about anyone who has 
been kicked around by life. Even die phoneys who hang around the 
fight game get to Joe easily. His friends often complain bitterly and tell 
him he is being played for a sucker. Joe once answered such a complaint 
with, "Money ain't everything, unless a poor guy ain't got it." 

Louis is not a cross between a pious saint and an over-enthusiastic boy 
scout. He has frequent spells of anger and moodiness, which only his 
closest friends ever see. He often resorts to highly inventive profanity, 
has a rugged sense of humor and a liking for gay parties, and he exer- 
cised the hero's prerogative of changing his mind so f requently In recent 
years he has shattered the faith some of his more ardent fans had in him. 

Unlike most champions, however, Joe is modest around girls* But he 

[251 J 

does have friends among women who have known him for a long time 
and are very fond of him. When Louis was training he never saw 
women. He liked to keep his camp calm and peaceful. He finds excite- 
ment in practical jokes. 

Freddie Wilson, a constant sidekick of Joe's, ruefully remembers a 
joke played on him before the Farr fight Wilson wasn't getting along 
with Carl Nelson, then Joe's bodyguard. Louis kept telling Freddie not 
to argue with Nelson because he was a tough gee from Chicago. Freddie 
scorned the advice and kept quarrelling with Nelson. At dinner one 
night, during a heated argument between Wilson and Nelson, Carl 
whipped out his gun and fired at Freddie. The gun had been loaded 
with blank cartridges by Joe and Carl. Freddie hit the floor, yelling with 
fright, while Joe roared at his antics. 

Louis and Wilson have often teamed up as gagsters. They especially 
like to wire torpedoes to the sparkplugs of a car. When an unsuspecting 
driver steps on the starter, he thinks his engine is exploding. Freddie 
once told Louis he had wired the car of a man who had heart trouble, 
then watched gleefully as Joe hot-footed it down the road to warn the 
man. "I was just kidding/' Wilson laughed, "but I never saw Joe move 
so fast. He was really worried." 

Joe liked joking about everything except the way he looked in training. 
He always looked slow during the first few weeks. Once, during a spar- 
ring session before the second Conn fight, a ringside fan kept heckling 
Joe. The champ was sparring with a first-rate fighter named Al Hoosman, 
a big clever guy, who was getting the better of the exchanges. Louis sud- 
denly jerked his head toward the heckler and said sharply, "Give that 
man his money back and get him out of here." 

After the session, Joe was asked if he was really sore at the heckler. 
He grinned and explained that he was trying to concentrate on what he 
was doing in the ring and the man had bothered him. "I guess I was 
sore at him," Joe said. "Now I ain't. I know I look bad in there, but 111 
sharpen up." 

When the chips were down and Joe was fighting for his tide, nothing 
anyone said in or out of the ring made him explode. It was tried by 
experts. Conn tried it in their first fight and some of the things he said 
were way below the belt. But after the eighth round Conn was so im- 
pressed by the clean way Louis was fighting that he closed his mouth. 

However, Louis has not been free from attacks of over-confidence and 
sloppy preparation for a fight. Twice he suffered the dire effects of 
presuming too much before he climbed into the ring. And both times he 
profited by the experience. 

He was cocky before the first bout with Max Schmeling, and the Ger- 
man gave him an unmerciful pounding for 12, rounds. The return match 
is, of course, one of the highlights of boxing history* Driven by a deep 


hatred for his opponent and a determination to vindicate himself, Joe 
knocked Schmeling senseless within three minutes. 

Before the first match with Jersey Joe Walcott in December, 1947, 
Louis, heavier and slower than he'd ever been before, made the mistake 
of misjudging his opponent as another innocuous challenger and over- 
estimating his own strength. Joe carried his indifference into the ring 
and barely escaped with the crown on his head. 

Six months later, Joe met Walcott again with a great deal of prestige, 
as well as his title, at stake. Although Louis didn't attack Walcott with 
the same savage fury he had displayed against Schmeling 10 years be- 
fore, he was able to prove to himself and the public that he had enough 
of the old poise and punch left to turn back the best challenge the world 
had to offer at that time. It was his last fight. 

Louis has never been called a great ring general. While Jack Black- 
burn was alive, Joe let the old trainer plan his fights and followed in- 
structions from the corner. 

Early in his career, Joe was most dangerous during the first minute 
and a half of any round. At the clang of the bell, with Blackburn's 
words still fresh in his ears, Louis would fight old Jack's way. Fighters 
who have stayed on their feet with Louis for 1 5 rounds did it by keeping 
away from him. at the beginning of each round. As the round wore on, 
Joe had a habit of forgetting Blackburn's instructions. 

An old-time sportswriter told me that Joe differed from most fighters 
in that every punch he landed always hurt. "Most fighters are so keyed 
up when they go into the ring/' he explained, "that they don't feel the 
majority of the punches until after the fight. But no matter how toned 
up an opponent was, Joe's jabs and hooks always hurt." 

George Nicholson, who for many years was Louis' chief sparring part- 
ner, explained to me that Joe's body and arms were always relaxed until 
the second before he landed a punch. "Just before he landed," Nick said, 
"he tightened up and, as the blow connected, he twisted his wrist just 
slightly. It was a corkscrew punch." Nick grinned, adding, "And it hurt." 

The cold calmness of Louis in the ring, Nicholson will tell you, was 
more physical than emotional. Blackburn trained Joe in the "relaxed" 
method of fighting, and if he tightened up, he lost a great deal of effec- 

The only time Louis ever got excited in the ring was the minute 
before the opening bell of the second Schmeling fight It worried Nick 
and Louis' handlers at ringside. They didn't know what might have 
happened if Joe had been forced to maintain the murderous pace he set 
himself in that first round. 

"He was fighting mad that night," Nick recalled. "That was the first 
and only time I've ever seen him mean mad. He was that way for two 
days before the fight He wouldn't speak to anyone; he'd just grant 


when you aslced him a question. I was afraid lie was going to kill 
Schmeling. That/' Nick added with a grin, ( was before it was legal to 
kill Nazis.* 

After the second Schmeling fight, there was a period when sports- 
writers and fans thought of Joe as a killer, a grudge fighter. Joe Louis 
forgot about Schmeling for keeps the second the German hit the canvas. 
It is difficult for Louis to carry a grudge against anyone. lie is a man 
without enemies and that's an amazing thing in the clouting business. 

Even more unusual is the fact that Joe Louis was never in love with 
fighting as a profession, "Well, I guess this fight game's all right," Joe 
once said, <f but I can't say I like it. It's the way I got to make a living." 

Joe never hit an opponent in the ring as hard as he could hit. He says 
he never had and never would hit a man with all his power. When 
asked about Schmeling, he laughed and said, 'Well, I hit him pretty 
hard, at that. But not my hardest." 

In his eighth fight as a pro, Louis got the fright of his life. He was 
fighting Art Sykes at the Arcadia Gardens in Chicago on October 24, 
1934. Sykes, a big clever fighter, went down in the eighth round when 
Joe hooked him with a hard left hand and followed with a crashing 

Back in his dressing room, Louis was told that Sykes still was uncon- 
scious. A half hour went by and Art still was out. Joe began to sweat. 
He told Blackburn that if anything happened to Sykes he was through 
with the ring. Since then, with the exception of Schmeling, the fear of 
injuring a man seriously or fatally has plagued Louis. 

The average fight fan knows little about Joe Louis' career before he 
cut down Primo Camera in 1935. As an amateur, Joe fought 54 times, 
won 43 bouts by knockouts, seven by decisions, and lost four. 

After turning professional on Independence Day, in 1934, Big Joe 
fought 22 times before climbing through the ropes to face Camera, 
chalking up 18 KO wins. He met very few set-ups. Men like Lee 
Ramage, Natie Brown, Roy Lazer, Alex Borchuk, Adolph Wiater, and 
Charlie Massera either were clever or rugged, or both. 

Two of the roughest fights Joe Louis ever had rarely have been men- 
tioned by sportswriters. The first, in 1934, against a chunky hard-hitting 
Canadian boy, Alex Borchuk, proved that Joe could take it. 

In the third round Borchuk caught Joe with a right hand flush to the 
button. When Louis went back to his corner he thought all his teeth 
had been knocked out. An examination showed one of them, had been 
broken. "Nobody since then," Louis said, "has ever hit me so hard," Joe 
didn't take any more chances with Alex. He dropped him for the final 
count in the next round. 

Following the Borchuk fight, Louis took on Adolph Wiater, the only 
fighter who ever sent blood flowing down Joe's face. He flattened Ad in 

f 264 I 

the first round, but Wiater got up and came Into him, smashing away 
with both hands. In the fifth, Wiater bloodied Joe's nose and hammered 
away at him unceasingly. Louis took everything the big blond boy threw 
at him, steadied in the seventh, and went on to win the fight by a wide 

With the exception of the first crushing defeat by Max Schmeling, 
Louis says that the Borchuk and Wiater fights were the two most pun- 
ishing ring battles of his career. For these two fights he was paid a total 
of $306. Less than four years later, he had slammed his way to the top 
of the ring and had boffed the cash register for a merry $1,384,034. 

Big Joe, the man behind the bazooka punch, was not born to be a 
fighter. The only inheritance Joe Louis had in common with most boys 
who go Into the ring was poverty. 

He was bom on a farm near Lexington, Alabama, on May 13, 1914. 
He weighed 14 pounds and was the seventh child of Monroe and Lillie 
Barrow. Joe's arrival was not greeted with joy. The Barrows, working a 
I2o-acre tract of rocky soil, were hungry most of the time. The kids were 
one jump ahead of the rickets. 

It has been written that Joe was a sleepy child. He was. Sleep Is a 
refuge from hunger. Joe got his first licking for eating food he was sup- 
posed to carry to workers In the field. 

The Negro people of Buckalew Mountain are among the poorest in 
the state. Their lives are made up of three things heat, hardship, and 
hunger. Joe doesn't like to speak of his early childhood. "Maybe it jvas 
okay for me/' he said ironically, "but it sure wasn't for my mother." 

Joe's father, a giant of a man, worked and worried himself into the 
state insane asylum while Joe was still a child. The burden of caring for 
the family was left on the sturdy shoulders of toil-hardened Lillie 

Joe Louis always has given most of the credit for his success to his 
mother. There Is no person In the world he loves as much. As a young 
woman, Lillie Barrow could outwork most of the men in the commu- 
nity. She plowed and cut cord wood with tireless energy. She minded 
her children carefully, kept them straight and honest, gave them a trust 
in God and courage, humility, and pride. "My children were good," she 
says today. 4< l tried my best to keep my Joe always good. He listened to 
me, he always obeyed what I said." 

For a long time Joe was regarded as a phenomenon in the sports world 
because he never seemed to say or do anything wrong. Harry Mendel, 
former manager of Tony Galento, once remarked, 'That Galento did 
everything wrong, and this guy does everything right. It's hard to under- 
stand how a fighter can, be such a good guy." 

Subsequently, however, Joe slipped from under the halo. His decline 
in popularity dates from the first Walcott fight which many people telt 


he lost. His ill-advised tour through England and his poor performance 
in the ring cost him additional admirers. 

And the frequency with which he changed his mind about retiring 
brought him closer to the level of a more human, ordinary champion 
than he had been before. But only in contrast with his early reign as 
heavyweight king when he was a model ruler, did Joe appear to be a 
less shining example of the perfect champion. Compared to most title- 
holders, his conduct, in and out of the ring, was exemplary. 

Much has been made of Joe Louis' "mixed ancestry/' A great many 
people have done exhaustive research on the subject, including Ernest 
A. Hooten, professor of anthropology at Harvard University. The plain 
fact, as Joe will tell you, is that he is an American Negro, It is true that 
there is white and Indian stock in his ancestry, but that is so with the 
majority of Negroes in America. 

In his early youth, Louis met as much discrimination because of his 
color as most of his people have. And yet, Louis has risen above hatred 
on a personal basis. 

Although not as much at ease with white people as among Negroes, 
Joe treats those with white skin as squarely as he does members of his 
own race. 

When Joe bought his huge farm at Spring Hill, Michigan, there was 
an aged white couple living on the land. Hearing that a Negro had 
bought the farm, they were afraid they would have to leave. Word of 
this reached Joe in New York and he immediately went all the way to 
Spring Hill to tell the old people they could go on living there as long 
as they wished. 

Manny Seamon, Joe's white trainer, who took the job after the death 
of Blackburn, might have had trouble with any fighter but Joe Louis. 
"Look at it this way/' Manny said. "Joe was practically raised in the ring 
by Jack Blackburn. As a Negro, Jack could understand many of Joe's 
problems better than I could ever hope to. And yet, Joe never has treated 
me with any less warmth and respect than he treated Blackburn. I 
would rather be known as the trainer and friend of Joe Louis than any 
other fighter in the world." 

The Negro families on Madison Avenue in Detroit, where Lillie 
Barrow moved after her marriage to Pat Brooks, lived a squalid life. It 
was a tenement section, a place of dark, musty hallways, garbage-littered 
streets, lads in ragged clothing and bare feet. It was a neighborhood of 
gangs, street fighting, and crime. 

As a kid, Joe Louis was one of the few boys in his group who never 
got into serious trouble. He fought only when attacked. He went obedi- 
ently, if reluctantly, to school. 

At the age of 12, he took a part-time job, delivering ice, at one dollar 
a week. The dollar meant a great deal to his mother, who had been 

( 266 ] 

forced to accept help from the Detroit Welfare Board in order to keep 
her family going. The Board paid $269 to them over a period of seven 
months, and it just about kept them alive. 

In 1935, with the money from his first large purse in his hand, Joe 
Louis paid it back. Joe never forgets his debts nor has he ever forgotten 
the kids who grew up with him on Madison Avenue and Mullick Street 
in Detroit 

Probably his oldest friend is Holman Williams, It was Williams who 
introduced Joe to boxing gloves. One afternoon a couple of years ago, 
he told me about Joe while we stood outside the ring at Pompton Lakes, 
watching Louis work out 

"Big Joe was my best pal/' he said. "The kids in the neighborhood 
never messed around with him. They found out that Joe could take care 
of himself and they let him alone. I never saw Joe start a fight with any- 
body. Like it is now, most everybody liked Joe. He never said much, but 
what he said was always right It may sort of sound like I say this be- 
cause Tm Joe's friend, but he was always for the little guy. It's the same 
way here in camp, ask anybody. He's always for the underdog in any of 
the arguments we have around here. Joe has a big heart/' 

Williams stopped for a moment. He watched Louis and Al Hoosman 
pumping away at each other in the ring. "See him up there fighting? I 
remember when we was amateurs together. I remember when he was 
knocked down seven times in one fight and kept right on going in to 
take it But when I first knew him he didn't want to become a fighter. 
After he lost three fights in a row, then he comes to me and says he is 
sure that someday hell be a good fighter. Joe is the kind of guy who gets 
going the best when things are the toughest/' 

After Louis took that terrible pasting from Max Schineling in their 
first fight, a lot of people jumped off the Brown Bomber's bandwagon. 
Not Holman Williams, After the fight, Williams told everyone who 
would listen that Joe Louis was going to become the next world's heavy- 
weight champion. He remembered how Joe was in the old days when 
the going got rough. 

The Williams' back yard was the scene of the first sparring matches 
between Joe and Holman. After a workout they would head for the 
kitchen where Mrs. Williams fed them cookies. Joe had a hankering 
to become a ballplayer, "You don't want to do that/' Williams would 
tell him, "A colored ballplayer has the cards stacked against him. He 
just can't get to the top/' "But I don't like to fight much/' Joe would 
answer, "except for fun/' 

How to make a living was Joe's biggest problem then. He often talked 
to Williams about his family's struggle to get along. 

School also bothered him. He was the biggest boy in his class at 
Detroit's Duffield School. The teachers remember him as a slow student, 

[267 ] 

blaming his backwardness on poor grounding in fundamentals during 
the short periods he went to school in Alabama. 

Joe plugged along until he reached the seventh grade, then switched 
to the Bronson Vocational School. When his mother bought him a violin 
and urged him to take lessons, Joe couldn't make any headway. "I was 
a sorry kid, then/' Louis said. 'There just didn't seem to be any way I 
could help the family or myself/' 

Williams never stopped encouraging Joe to take up fighting. Many 
pounds lighter than Louis and much faster, Holman would hammer 
away at him. He couldn't hurt Joe much and Louis never hurt him. 
Most of the punches Louis threw were more of a push than a blow. Now 
and again, he would show a slight interest in trying to strike a fast blow 
at his friend, but most of the time he was half-hearted about it. 

Many years later, in September, 1935, Joe Louis had bowled over Max 
Baer to become the number one contender for the heavyweight crown. 
He went to St. Louis to appear at the light-heavyweight championship 
match between Bob Olin and John Henry Lewis. Joe was to referee a 
prelim. When Louis saw who the two preliminary fighters were, he with- 
drew as referee. One of them was Holman Williams. 

"He told me afterwards/' Williams said, "that he didn't think it would 
be fair for him to be the third man in the ring. He said those cookies 
iny ma used to give him might have counted against my opponent. 
That's Joe. He just can't do anything unfair." 

Although Holman Williams was an influence on Joe Louis* life, 
there was a young Negro lightweight named Thurston McKinney, 
who started Joe on his career as an amateur fighter. McKinney, who had 
been one of Joe's classmates at school, was then the amateur lightweight 
champion of Michigan. He belonged to a small athletic club located in 
the Brewster Community Center. 

Searching for a sparring partner, McKinney saw Joe walking slowly 
down a street with his violin under his arm. Louis was on his way to 
take a lesson, but McKinney could talk as well as he could fight. An 
hour later, the violin lay on the floor and Joe was lacing on the gloves. 

For several rounds, Thurston cuffed Louis around at will. Then he 
uncorked a looping, sizzling hook to his friend's jaw. Big Joe momen- 
tarily lost his temper and let fly a hard right hand punch. McKinney's 
eyes went glassy, his knees buckled and, if Louis hadn't caught him, he 
would have dropped to the floor. Joe apologized. McKinney grinned 
weakly and looked at Joe with admiration. 

From then on, like Williams, McKinney constantly pecked away at 
Joe to take up boxing seriously. Louis hung around the Brewster gym 
for nine months, acting as a punching bag for other fighters. Kid Ellis, 
the club's trainer, saw little promise in the big, shy, often, clumsy fighter. 
Joe Louis couldn't even make the boxing team. 

[ 268 ] 

A new Instructor, George Moody, gave Joe his first chance In the ring. 
Watching Joe spar with Charlie House, the middleweight champion 
of the club, Moody decided to make room for Joe on the team* He took 
him along when the club's fighters met the Edison A. C. team. It wasn't 
exactly a favor. Louis was the victim of a bad mismatch. 

In November, 1932, with Williams and McKinney on the sidelines, 
Big Joe fought his first official fight. In the opposite comer was Johnny 
Miler, a seasoned light-heavyweight, holder of the city and state cham- 
pionships and member of the Olympic boxing team. 

The announcer walked over to Joe's comer. "Your name Joe Louis 
Barrow?" The young fighter thought it over. "Just Joe Louis/' he an- 

Joe Louis walked out of the Edison A. C. that night a badly defeated 
fighter. The side of his face was swollen, his lips puffed, his body sore 
from punches that had connected solidly. In the first two rounds Miler 
smacked the future heavyweight champ to the canvas seven times. Joe 
kept going back for more. 

Both Williams and McKinney, watching the fight, were certain that 
Big Joe's career as a fighter was washed up* But on the way home Louis 
told Williams: "I sure got licked, but I'm gonna be a fighter, Willie. I 
learned plenty in there tonight/' He turned his battered face to his 
friend. "I guess that man used up about all his punches on me/' 

Joe's mother took a look at her son's condition and said nothing. Her 
face told him everything. All through his amateur career, she objected 
to Joe's fighting, but she seldom spoke about it. The merchandise and 
food checks he was given for his fights, he brought home to her. 

After his defeat by Miler, Joe went to work in earnest. He ham- 
mered out 13 straight knockouts. But his fists weren't earning the 
money his family needed, so he covered the city, looking for a job. 

In 1933, Joe went to work on the assembly line at the Ford plant 
for $25 a week. It was the most money he had earned in his life and, 
for several months, he was happy about the job and convinced he should 
quit the ring. 

One day a friend showed Joe a check he had received for a pro fight. 
It was twice as much as Joe made in a week. That was early in 1934 and 
Joe had been fighting two years as an amateur. He lost to Max Maxek 
in 1933 for the amateur light-heavyweight title and dropped close de- 
cisions to Clinton Bridges and Stanley Evans. But in April of 1934, after 
a string of impressive victories, Louis won the amateur light-heavyweight 
title he missed the year before. He felt ready. 

When Joe told his mother that he wanted to quit the job at Ford 
and fight professionally, she became panicky. It was probably the only 
time that they ever had words about Joe's career in the ring. The $25 
a week Joe earned meant security for the family. 

[ 269 ] 

In the kitchen, surrounded by her other children, Mrs. Brooks pointed 
this out to her son. ''Joe never talked much before/' his mother said 
later, "but he sure talked aplenty that night. He had thought it all out, 
and I could see his mind was made up. He tried to tell me, the best that 
he could, that what he was doing was for us. I knew then that it wasn't 
'cause he loved fightin' but 'cause he loved us that he wanted to fight 
for money/' 

In or out of the ring, Joe seldom makes snap decisions. He carried 
the problem around with him for days. He finally took it to John Rox- 
borough, a wealthy Detroit lawyer, who had helped his career as an 
amateur and who also had been instrumental in getting Joe a job In 
the Ford factory. 

Roxy listened carefully to Joe's slow explanation of his problem, which 
ended with, 'Mr. Roxborough, what I'm gettin' is a lot of money and 
it helps my ma. But some of the boys at the gym tell me they make 25 
dollars for one fight. Do you think I could get that much?" 

Roxborough looked at the big, worried, 1 9-year-old boy, who had 
won 43 amateur fights by knockouts. "Joe," he said, 'you're awfully 
young. You're a great amateur and have a fine future. I don't think 
you should turn pro now. But," Roxy smiled, "if you need money as 
badly as you say you do, go ahead and do it. You can get $25 for a fight. 
If you work hard and make good, I'll see that you get much more than 


So began Joe's friendship with the fatherly, intelligent, worldly 
Negro, who was to become his manager. 

Much has been written about John Roxborough as the power behind 
Joe's rise to the championship. A graduate of Detroit University's Law 
School, a successful lawyer and real estate man, he was a leader of his 
people in Detroit. Unfortunately, he also was mixed up in the policy 
racket, which eventually caught up with him. 

Proof of Joe's deep affection and respect for Roxborough is found 
in the fact that Louis brought John right back into the fold after he 
was released from prison. 

Roxborough and his partner, Julian Black, knew what they were 
taking on when they set out to boost Joe Louis to the top of the fight 
game. The world didn't want a Negro heavyweight champion. 

From 1908 to 1915, a colored man named Jack Johnson, as heavy- 
weight champion of the world, did more to harm the Negro people than 
all the untruths printed about them. The late Jack Johnson has been 
given his lumps by sportswriters for years. It is useless to recount his 
mistakes on these pages, other than to add that the fight game has 
produced white champions equally as bad. But a Negro in the public 
eye carries the reputation of his race on his shoulders. It would take 
quite a man to undo the harm done by Johnson. 

I 270] 

Harry Wills, a fine man and a great fighter, was unable to win the 
heavyweight title because he was a Negro. Jack Dempsey wouldn't fight 
him. After the reign of Jack Johnson, colored fighters met bitter hostility* 
They were handed bad decisions. Hatred against Negroes, writes the 
young Negro journalist Roi Ottley, hung over the ring like a palL It 
was so real a handicap that only the most stout-hearted overcame it. 

In the early '20'$ and '30'$, colored fighters were pushed into the dregs 
of the fight game. They were forced to throw fights, take short purses, 
and serve as punching bags and clowns. Fight fans couldn't forget 
Jack Johnson. 

Jack Blackburn, who was one of the finest fighting machines ever to 
step into the ring, was hired to train Joe Louis. Blackburn, a man of 
strict honesty, told the partners that Louis would only bring them misery. 
"Nobody can get a colored heavyweight to the top," Blackburn said 
gloomily. 'That Joe is too good a boy to put through that hell. It'll 
break his heart/' 

"It will take some doing," Roxborough said, "but we'll show everyone 
in the world how good Joe is. Well make the public want him to win 
the championship, if he's good enough to win it." 

Blackburn showed a twisted smile. "He's good/* he said. "He has 
punch, heart, just about everything, Mr. Roxborough. I never seen a 
boy learn so quick. He never makes a mistake twice." 

The trio, Blackburn, Roxborough and Black, planned Joe's career 
the way generals plan a long-term campaign. They picked the men he 
would fight and where he would fight them. They gave him no set-ups. 
They didn't, as has been said so often, tell Joe what to think, say and do 
on every occasion. Joe thinks for himself. They had a boy who couldn't 
be bad, who was good with his fists and heart, when he came to them. 

Actually, Roxborough had only one serious talk with Joe Louis. That 
was the night before Joe won his first professional fight against Jack 
Kracken in the Bacon Casino in Chicago, Roxborough outlined for Joe 
the course of action they had decided upon. 

There would be no double dealing, no fixing of fights, no soft "build 
up" matches. Joe would fight fair at all times. He would never gloat 
over a win. He would keep a dead pan. He would live and fight clean. 

Roxy then outlined the difficulties and prejudices Joe would face. "It's 
a long, hard straggle," Roxy said, "and maybe there will be nothing at 
the end, Joe. Do you still want to try it?" Joe said only two words, "Yes, 

After the Conn fight, Joe spoke over the air to the two people he loves 
most, his mother and John Roxborough. Although it is illegal for a man 
who has served a prison sentence to manage a fighter in the ring, Joe 
found a way to get Roxy at his side again. 

Lou Krem, Joe's commanding officer in the army, likes to tell stories 

about the influence Joe has on all kinds of people. Louis once visited 
a stockade full of prisoners, American soldiers in the guardhouse for 
misconduct. "When Joe walked into that big roomful of men/' Krem 
said, "you could have heard a pin drop. Then he began to talk to them 
in that slow, deliberate way he has. Fve never heard a speech like that. 
He told them that their uniforms weren't the ones die Army had given 
them. He said, as a soldier, he was ashamed of them. Then he told 
them about a mistake he had made. He said he had thought he was a 
big shot before the first Schmeling fight. lie said he forgot, for a time, 
how many people depended on him. He ended by pointing out to them 
that he had fixed that mistake in the second Schmeling fight and that 
they could fix their mistakes, too. 

"Now, those guys listening to him were tough characters," Krem said. 
"He was taking an awful chance talking to them that way. But you 
could tell by their faces that what Joe said hit home. I'm telling you 
right now that Joe Louis is a great man and a great American. I went to 
school at Notre Dame and I knew Knute Rockne. Until I met Joe, I 
never met a sports figure that measured up to Rock. Joe does." 

Krem traveled all over with Louis and another of his favorite stories 
concerns a golf match they played in Edmonton, Canada. When they 
finished the eighteenth hole, a crowd of spectators gathered and asked 
Joe and Lou to play two more holes. 

"Joe's a hell of a good golfer," Lou said. "He shoots in the low 8o ? s, 
which is way out of my class. I got him aside and told him I didn't 
want to make a fool of myself. My second shot on the first hole lit in 
a big trap. Joe's drive carried to the edge of the green. Fie lit out, way 
ahead of the crowd, going fast. As he passed my ball, he scooped it out of 
the trap with his club. It was lying pretty when I got there. That was 
a swell thing to do and I asked him why he did it. 

" 'Aw, hell, Lou/ he grinned, 'we were just playing for fun. No use 
your getting embarrassed in front of all them people/ " 

It has been said that Joe's fairness in the ring was an attempt to win the 
admiration of the fans and scribes. Those who saw the first Conn fight 
know differently. Billy cussed Louis for nine rounds, deliberately heeled 
him, and was ahead on points. Joe saw his championship slipping away. 

In the loth round, whirling out of a comer, Conn slipped. For several 
breathless seconds he was wide open. Louis, without violating a rule, 
could have knocked Billy senseless. Instead, he stepped back and let 
Billy regain his stance. 

Louis started out as a pro in the ring with just two assets. He had a 
powerhouse punch in both hands and a natural rhythm in his move- 
ments. Until Louis was belted out by the steadily connecting right 
hand of Max Schmeling, he hadn't needed much of a defense. Joe knew 
just one thing in his early days of fightinggo in and sock* 

[272 j 

A sportswriter named Bill McCormick was one of the first to have 
his eyes opened by the speed and punch of Blackburn's Bomber. Bill 
had a piece of a highly touted scrapper named Buck Everett. Buck had 
a long series of winning fights behind him and seemed to be on the 
way up. "I figured/' McCormick laughed, "that I had my hands on a 

food thing in Everett All I knew about Louis was that he was a new 
ghter with only four matches behind him. I couldn't figure out why 
his managers had agreed to let him go against a veteran like Everett 

"Before Louis had thrown half a dozen punches I turned to another 
party who had a piece of Everett and said, There's the next champion 
of the world/ My friend told me I was crazy and said to watch Buck 
get going in the next round. In the next round I watched Buck throw 
a punch, saw Joe's hand move and watched Everett hit the deck. I went 
back to writing about sports and from then on followed Louis' career." 

McCormick was one of the first sportswriters who really made an 
effort to know Joe and write about him as something other than the 
"dark menace" or the "automaton" or the "inscrutable, unemotional 
fighting machine/' 

McCormick recalled a trip to Joe's camp just before the historic Louis- 
Baer fight. Max had been talking a great fight against Louis and also 
had been making some tactless remarks about Joe's fiancee, Marva 
Trotter. "Joe," McCormick said, "Baer tells me he's going to rough you 
up in this fight." 

Joe smiled, but there was a mean twinkle in his eyes. "No, he won't,' 1 * 
he answered. "He ain't crazy." "Should I tell him that?" McCormick 
asked. "No, Mr. McCormick," Louis said. "You just tell Baer he can 
say what he wants about me, but he better stop talking about Miss 
Trotter, because it's making me want to hurt him." 

Bill relayed the information to Baer, who became somewhat subdued* 
As the date of the fight drew near, Baer's windy bravado grew softer. 
The reports from Joe's camp did not bolster his courage. One of Louis* 
sparring partners, reporting the Brown Bomber in the pink, said, "Any 
place he hits you, you think you are shot. And if he hits you right,, 
you think you're dead." 

If Louis had carried the grudge against Baer into the ring, Max 
might have taken a worse shellacking than he did. But Joe was humane 
enough to get Max out of the way in four rounds. Even so, Baer took a 
severe pounding. After the fight, Max grinned through a puffed and 
battered face, saying, "Sure I could have gotten up the last time. Twenty 
bucks entitles these people to see a fight. It don't entitle them to see a 

After the rout of Baer in the ring, Joe joined Marva Trotter, whom 
he had married a few hours before the fight. There have been many 
stories about the marriage, how it happened, and why it failed. 


Joe first met Marva when he was an amateur fighter in 1933. They 
let in a gymnasium. Marva came because Joe was something of a 
celebrity in Detroit's amateur fight circles. They were introduced by a 
sports fan and a friend of Marva's, Jerry Hughes, 

Class differences in Negro society are as marked as in white society. 
Marva was society. Joe was a pug and a factory worker. It is interesting 
that Miss Trotter did not marry Joe Louis until he was well in the chips 
and on the brink of becoming the worlds champion. 

At the time of their marriage, Joe was not Marva's equal from the 
standpoint of cultural advantages and education, but he was her equal 
in more material ways. 

Marva has been blamed for Joe's defeat in his first fight with Schmel- 
ing. It isn't true. Before that fight, Joe and Marva were happy. For 
Marva, Joe meant fame and glamour. Joe apparently was very much in 
love with her. But as time wore on and Joe's fame skyrocketed, more of 
his attention had to be turned toward being a public figure. 

Joe and his wife furnished a beautiful apartment in Chicago, in which 
Marva spent a great deal of time alone. 

Joe was pushing a golf ball around a course shortly after putting Conn 
on ice for the first time when he was notified that Marva was suing for 
divorce. They were reconciled in the courtroom and took their marriage 
on for a few more rounds. But the long separations and the lack of 
mutual interests proved to be obstacles they couldn't overcome. Since 
1945, they have been through divorce, remarriage, separations, recon- 
ciliations, and law suits. They have two children, a daughter Jacqueline, 
and a son, Joe Jr. 

Probably the happiest period in Joe's life was the time between the 
Baer fight and the first Schmeling bout. Everything he had fought so 
hard for 27 fights in two and a half years was his. He had bought his 
mother a beautiful new home and provided for his brothers and sisters. 
One of his sisters, Vunies, he sent to one of the best Negro colleges in 
the country. His home life was fairly serene. He had earned over a 
million dollars and had lived up to the expectations of his manager. 

Joe trained for the Schmeling fight like a kid on an outing. Only 
Blackburn, who had seen so many of them come and go, was worried. 
Jack's own career had been ruined after he won fame against such great 
fighters as Joe Cans and Sarn Langford. Now he saw the 22-year-old 
Golden Boy of the ring making the greatest mistake of his life. Joe was 

As one of his close friends, a Negro sportswriter, said, ". . . he began 
to believe the press clippings/' He was too contented to train rigorously* 
He was riding the crest. He was the big kid who had grabbed the brass 
ring in his crashing fists. 

On June 19, 1936, ten years before the night of the second Conn 

[274 ] 

fight, Joe Louis climbed into the ring against Max Schmeling, favored to 
win by a KO before the third round. 

You know what happened that night. The Black Uhlan's big right 
fist seemed to work like a magnet toward Joe's jaw and the side of his 
head. Time after time the blows crashed through. In the fourth round, 
Schmeling's Sunday punch connected. Big Joe went down. He was hurt, 
dazed. Blackburn shouted frantically for Joe to take the nine-count. 
"Stay down, Chappie!" 

Joe never heard him. He staggered to his feet. His hands went up 
and he fought by instinct. He was so dazed by Max's powerful shots that 
he thought he heard a bell that never rang. He dropped his hands. 
Schmeling smashed him flush on the button. Joe's legs bent. He crouched 
in pain. The bell rang and he staggered to his comer like a man In a 

For eight more rounds, Joe Louis paid the price of over-confidence, 
sloppy training, not listening to Blackburn. Joe had dished It out in the 
ring. That night he took it. He took it and came back for more. He 
seemed to want to pay for his mistake. He took it the way he had when 
he had been knocked down seven times in his first fight with Miler. In 
the 1 2th round it ended. A series of savage lefts and rights from the 
viciously punching Schmeling sent Joe to the canvas for keeps. 

Failure to train correctly wasn't the only thing that beat Big Joe that 
night. Schmeling beat him. Max, unknown to almost everyone, studied 
motion pictures of Joe in training. He knew every movement Louis 
made in the ring. He knew Joe's two weakest points. Joe always carried 
his guard low, leaving his jaw open. And he had a definite way of feint- 
ing with his left hand to find an opening. 

Max knew that feint. He knew just how often and how far out Joe 
would reach with that left hand before throwing a punch. All Max had 
to do was beat him to the punch with a right. 

Early in the fight, Jack Blackburn saw what Schmeling was doing, 
But he couldn't change Joe's style. Years of making Louis an offensive 
instead of a defensive fighter could not be changed in the heat of battle. 
Joe would come out of his corner with Blackburn's instructions to keep 
his guard high. Then, by force of habit, he would drop it. When he 
dropped it, Max banged in the right. 

Schmeling was a cunning, well-conditioned fighter that night. He 
made no mistakes. Max waited until he was out of the ring to make his 
mistake. But he made a beaut. He made the worst mistake he could 
make against a man like Joe Louis. Max was a poor winner. He gloated 
in victory. 

In typical Nazi fashion, Schmeling boasted that, because he was a 
white man, he knew he could beat a colored man. He accused the groggy 
Louis of hitting him low. He called Joe an amateur. 


Like Hitler hopping in glee over the fall of France, Schmeling read 
telegrams of congratulations from Goebbels and the Fuehrer himself and 
muttered a "Heil Hitler" into the microphone in his dressing room. He 
toasted that he was going to get hack the championship; that he would 
carry it home to the Fatherland. 

Joe Louis ? his face covered with ice packs, lay on a dressing table 
down the hall. That night he was one of the most lost and lonely men 
In America. He said little, except to tell the sportswriters he was sorry 
he let them down. He asked Roxborough if he had hit Schmeling low. 
Yes, in his dazed state, he had hit Schmeling low twice. 

'Tell him/* Joe said painfully, ''that I'm sorry. I don't want to foul 
nobody. I don't know what I did in there." Blackburn came over and 
rubbed Big Joe's shoulder. 'Take it easy, Chappie/' he said. 'This ain't 
your last fight. You jes' got tagged. We'll be back." 

Louis hit the comeback trail with a vengeance. Two months later, he 
climbed into the ring against Jack Sharkey, the man who had once 
whipped Max Schmeling to win the heavyweight tide. It was a differ- 
ent Joe Louis. He carried his right hand high, covering his chin. He was 
businesslike and cold. Sharkey couldn't even touch Louis thatnight. Big 
Joe belted him down the pike in the third round. 

One year and three days later, 10 fights later, with nine knockout vic- 
tories behind him, Joe Louis had worked his way to a shot at the cham- 
pionship of the world. The title hopes that had crashed on June 19, 
1936, were now his to shoot at. 

For 22 years, since 1915, the Negro people had been waiting for one 
of their race to regain the title which Jack Johnson lost so ignominiously 
to Jess Willard that day Johnson lay in the ring in Havana, Cuba, with 
his hand over his eyes to shade them from the sun* 

The champion was James J. Braddock. He was a champion only in 
spirit. He had won the title in a dogged, uninspired bout with the 
clownish, poorly conditioned Max Baer. 

Jim Braddock deserved the title he won. He was washed up as a 
fighter before 1929. His jaw had been broken, his ribs fractured. He 
had been defeated 29 times and he and his family were on relief when 
Jim Braddock went back to fighting. 

It was ironic and wonderful, the picture that existed the night Joe 
Louis faced Jim Braddock for the most exalted ring title in the world. 
Both men had once been on relief. Both had worked as laborers. Both 
had tasted poverty, hunger and defeat. 

To them, fighting was the only way to prove themselves. One was a 
once-broken man, who had risen by sheer courage to the top of the heap. 
The other was a young, 23-year-old Negro boy, a member of the most 
Exploited race in the nation, who had fought his way up from the second 
rate gyms of Detroit, 


Braddock lost the tide like a champion to a champion. He knocked 
Joe down in the second round. From then on, Jim took a beating. He 
fought gamely, but was completely outclassed and, in the eighth round, 
the big right hand of Joe Louis shot out to end the slaughter, Joe was 
the champion of the world. 

A little guy named Joe Gould, Jim Braddock's manager, said in the 
dressing room after the fight, "Well, we lost, but I'm proud of Jim. Joe 
Louis is a good boy. Joe has done more to bring boxing back than any- 
one in the game today. He deserves to be champion/' 

Joe Louis told the reporters that anybody who wanted a crack at the 
title could have it. He also said he wouldn't consider himself really the 
champion until he had beaten Max Schmeling. He wanted Max bad. 
But he was taking on all comers until the Schmeling fight could be 

No champion in the world put his title on the line as fast as Joe. Two 
months after he won it, he let Tommy Farr, the game and rugged Welsh- 
man, try for it, Farr took a lot of healthy pokes at it, traveling the full 
1 5-round route. Joe showed fight fans he knew how to box that night. 
Fie looked classy. 

Against Nathan Mann and Harry Thomas, whom he KO'd, he looked 
rough and sharp. He was tuning up for Hen Max, Schmeling arrived 
in America with the hope of the Nazi world behind him. Hitler wanted 
the title as badly as Max did. The German mailed fist was closing to 
throw a staggering punch at the world. 

The theory of racial superiority was up for test. Max came across the 
water with his mouth open, spouting disdain for Louis, for America's 
"decadent" democracy. He told reporters what he would do to the "black 

Jack Blackburn summed up Joe's attitude. A week before the fight he 
said grimly, "Chappie would rather die than lose this one. He's gonna 
get that man. He promised me." 

Joe had promised someone else, too. Just before going into training, 
Louis paid a visit to a man who had done a great deal for Joe's people. 
Sitting behind a desk at the White House, Franklin D. Roosevelt turned 
his warm smile on Joe. They chatted for a few minutes and the President 
grinned as he felt the Louis biceps. 

"Joe," the President said, "when the cause is right, an American never 

"I won't let you down, Mr. President/' Joe replied. 

Joe Louis hit Max Schmeling 41 times on the night of June 22, 1938. 
He hit him most of those times with the right hand that Max had held 
in contempt He hit him with his shoulders behind every punch. In that 
fight he fought the way Dempsey fought, like a killer. 

The first Louis blow, a left hook to Schilling's jaw, landed four sec- 


onds after the bell rang. Officially, Schmeling went down four times 
before the final count. He was knocked out in two minutes and four 
seconds of the first round. It was the fastest and most vicious knockout 
in the history of world championship fights. 

Schmeling, who had called Big Joe a "dumb animal," ended the fight 
on all fours. A white towel from his corner fluttered past him. He was 
taken from the stadium to a hospital. 

In defeat, Schmeling claimed a foul. The sportswriters were unani- 
mous in agreeing that Louis did not land a foul shot in any of the 41 
punches. Max took one on the short ribs, when twisting to get away 
from a cannonlike right Joe had aimed for the body. It was a fair punch. 
Max couldn't lose any better than he could win. 

Many of the names you may have forgotten, but for the record here 
are the men who might have become champions of the world except for 
Joe's powerful rights and lefts: John Henry Lewis, Tony Galen to, Jack 
Roper, Bob Pastor, Arturo Godoy, Johnny Paychek, Al McCoy, Red 
Burman, Gus Dorazio, Abe Simon, Tony Musto, Max Baer's kid brother, 
Buddy, Billy Conn, Lou Nova, Tami Maurieilo, and Joe Walcott 

Big Joe became such a symbol of the word "champion" that people 
paid not to see whether he would win or lose they knew he would 
win but just to see Joe Louis. 

Before the first Conn fight, Joe defended his title once a month for 
seven months. Writers termed it a "bum. of the month" campaign. Most 
of the challengers were capable heavyweights but not in the same class 
with Louis as boxers or punchers. 

Billy Conn, in his first fight against Louis, proved to be in Joe's league 
as a boxer. Billy was fast and confident. He reached his height that night. 
Joe Louis had passed his peak, which was probably reached the night he 
fought Max Schmeling. 

Jersey Joe Walcott caught an aging, poorly conditioned Louis in their 
first fight and floored him twice before losing a long-disputed decision. 
But Joe proved he never makes the same mistakes when battling a foe 
the second time by knocking out Walcott the second time around. 

America has been good to Joe, probably because unconsciously the 
vast majority of Americans recognize that Joe has been good for America. 
Joe's patriotism is as deep as his sense of fairness. 

Everyone knows about Joe Louis' famous one-line speech at Madison 
Square Garden in which he told a country facing a long war, "We all 
gotta do our part and then well win, 'cause we're on God's side." Rowe, 
who saw him later that night, kidded him about the speech. "J oc /* Billy 
said laughing, "you sure are dumb. You got it all mixed up. You should 
have said that God's on our side/* 

When Joe finally leaves the fight game for good, and goes to his place 
at Spring Hill, Michigan, he will live in a house with a history. In Civil 

[278 ] 

War days It was a station of the Underground Railway which sheltered 
Negroes as they traveled from the South to freedom. 

Joe will sit on the porch with his memories. He will look out on 477 
acres of rolling land, a softer, different land from the rocky soil on which 
he was bom. The sounds of the ring will he far away and nostalgic. 

But Joe Louis, one of sport's immortals, will not be forgotten. The man 
who wasn't born to be a fighter has built a memorial with his fists and 
his heart. 


TO those of us who came of age in that fabulous era of raccoon 
coats, the Charleston, Silent Calvin Coolidge, speakeasies, the 
gangsters, the talkies, it seems like a far-away time. But mention 
the name of one man and that era suddenly becomes only the day-bef ore- 
yesterday. You can mention his name to a raggedy, dirty-faced, ten-year- 
old kid and his eyes will light up and hell share that time with you. The 
name to say to the kid is Babe Ruth. 

The kid probably won't know that the year was 1927 when George 
Herman Ruth hit sixty home runs. But hell know the record is still un- 
broken. And hell know about Babe Ruth, know that the Babe was the 
greatest. This is because the stories about Babe Ruth are timeless, have 
become legendary, belong to the kids of America, and will be kept alive 
as long as baseball is played in the streets of the cities, on sand lots, and 
in big-league parks. 

It is sad, and sometimes a little unbelievable, to realize that the Babe 
has now become a sports figure of the past. While baseball is being 
played, you somehow think of Babe Ruth as still being up there at the 
plate, scowling at a pitcher, his big, heavy head cocked on one side, his 
toes turned in, his gargantuan bat waving nervously. The dusty figures 
in the record books can never tell anyone what it was like to sec Babe 
Ruth hit a homer* They were the most complete and satisfying home 
runs ever hit. They were whacked so hard and they sailed so high and 
so far that nobody who ever saw Ruth belt one ever forgot it. 

As a person, Babe Ruth lived his life in the same manner in which he 
hit home runs. He was a colorful, lusty, great-hearted, simple, intense 
man who was loved not only by the kids of his day, but by everyone, 
male and female, from poets to truck drivers. In tracking down the rich 
lore of Ruthiana, you also discover that the Babe was, perhaps, loved the 
most by those who knew him best the cynical sportswriters, the mana- 
gers who suffered to keep him in line, the men who played in the ball 
parks with him. 

[ 280 ] 

A Yankee pitcher who was a long-time teammate of Ruth's said, 
almost tearfully, "Why, that big, wild, rough old son of a gun was just 
about the greatest thing that ever came to baseball I guess you could 
say that the Babe was baseball/' 

In putting down the legends about Ruth, in comparing the things that 
ballplayers, managers, sportswriters, and his friends will tell you, it Is 
sometimes difficult to sift fact from fiction. But just remember that 
the important, sensational, tremendously colorful feats he performed are 
mostly true. The records are there to prove it. Sometimes the little, trivial 
incidents get mixed up and distorted in the retelling. It is not, for exam- 
ple, important to know whether Babe Ruth was born in the year 1894 
or 1895, on the 6th of February, or the yth. 

The Babe was never one to bother with details. He always like to do 
things in high, wide and handsome style. He lived on a lavish, gigantic 
scale. He could get into more trouble, curse louder and more profanely, 
drink more, smoke and eat and enjoy himself more than any athlete of 
our time. But few ever resented what this large hulk of a man did, be- 
cause the Babe, himself, never made any bones about the fact that he 
wanted to squeeze from life every ounce of delight known to a man's 

A friend tells of seeing Ruth coming out of the Willard Hotel In 
Washington one fine Summer's day, splendid in his tan outfit, a fat cigar 
tilted jauntily at the sky. The Babe was occupying a suite in the hotel. 
The other ballplayers stayed in a less extravagant hostelry a few blocks 

"Say, Babe," the friend asked, "what does that layout upstairs cost 

"One hundred bucks a day," Babe said expansively. Then seeing his 
friend's amazement, Ruth added, jovially, "Why, hell's fire, man, a 
guy's got to live, hasn't he?" 

That was the Babe. He could do it. He could live right up to the hilt, 
knock around in a manner that would kill an ordinary man and go on 
day after day busting down the fences with those powerful drives. 

He pleased the crowds, and the crowds loved him. After the 1919 
scandal, when baseball hit its all-time low in public esteem, it was Babe 
Ruth more than any other player who won the fans back to the game. 

The millions who loved Ruth, knew that he would never let them 
down. He was loyal to them, he loved baseball passionately, and for 
22 years he gave the fans every nickel of their money's worth. Even 
when he struck out, the Sultan of Swat did it with such gigantic 
gusto and anger that it was a wonderful thing to watch. There was never 
anything half-way about the things Babe Ruth did. Every gesture or 
move he made on the diamond was for the big play. He put his heart 
and soul into each bit of action, shot the works whether it would make 

[281 ] 

him a magnificent bum or a sensational hero. Out of uniform, he never 
sneaked his fun; when he got into trouble it was always with an explo- 
sive bang and never with a whimper. You had to love the guy. 

It may be pedestrian to put down some of Ruth's baseball records. Yet 
few people realize how many records he did set marks that still stand 
unchallenged. The one most people know about is that all-time record 
of 60 circuit swats in one season. Ruth also holds the all-time home 
run record 730 four-bagger clouts in regular season play, the World 
Series, and an All-Star game. He also struck out more than any man in 
baseball 1,330 times. He was given the most bases-on-balls of any hitter, 
2,056. He batted in more runs than any ballplayer ever has, 2,209. As a 
pitcher in World Series play, he holds the record for the most consecu- 
tive scoreless innings pitched, 29, against Brooklyn and the Cubs. It 
could go on and on. , . , 

Ruth's all-time batting average is among the first 10 in baseball. The 
only retired men who have topped the Babe's .342 lifetime average are 
Wee Willie Keeler, Ty Cobb, Rogers Horasby, Tris Speaker, Ed 
Delahanty, Dennis Brouthers, and Shoeless Joe Jackson, And only Ty 
Cobb crossed home plate more times in his baseball life than Babe Ruth. 

"Shucks, ' Ruth once said, "I coulda hit a .600 lifetime average easy. 
But I woulda had to hit them singles. The people were payin j to see me 
hit them home runs/' 

But there was another reason Babe always aimed for the high wall. 
That was because nobody got a greater thrill out of seeing the apple sail 
out of the park than the Bambino himself. For sheer personal enjoy- 
ment, nothing was so delicious tc watch as the top-heavy, dainty-ankled, 
beaming Babe jaunt around the bases with that peculiar, mincing 

There can't be a story written about the Babe without including the 
greatest, most colorful home run he ever hit It was the one against the 
Cubs on October ist in the third game of the 1932 World Series. The 
score was tied at 4-4 in the fifth inning and Ruth had hit a homer in the 
first. As he caxne to the plate, one of the Cub players roiled a lemon out 
of the dugout toward him and Grimes and Malone wiggled their fingers 
at him and called him names. 

All of this was the climax to a feud that had been going on since the 
Series had begun. It was started by Ruth because of a pal of his, a former 
Yankee shortstop, Mark Koenig. The Cubs had bought Koenig from the 
San Francisco Missions in mid-season and Mark, hitting .353 in 33 
games, had been the spark plug that helped them win the National 
League pennant. When Ruth heard that the Cub players had voted 
Koenig only a half share in the Series jackpot, his disgust and wrath 
were colossal, 

"Hey, Mark," Ruth bellowed at Koenig when he came out on the 

[ 282 ] 

field for the first game, "how are you? Who are those cheapskates with 

The Cubs burned. They hurled epithets back at Ruth, calling him a 
pot-belly, a balloon-head, a bum. As each game progressed, the epithets 
became more bitter and personal and salty. Ruth's dislike for the Cubs 
and their anger at him reached a height on that crucial moment when 
he stepped to the plate. The din of abuse was deafening. 

Ruth glowered, stepped into the box, said to catcher Gabby Hartnett, 
"If that bum Root throws it in there, 111 knock it over the fence again/' 
The Cubs yelled derisively. Root grooved one for a strike. The Babe 
held up one finger. Root sent another down the middle. Babe held up 
two fingers. Then came that wonderful gesture, the most talked-about 
one in baseball, when the Babe pointed at the fence, indicating where 
he was going to put the next one. Some say it was a point at the flag 
in center field. Some say that Babe just waved at the fence. Later, Babe 
said he just waved at die fence. But what an Olympian gesture! 

The next pitch came down the line. Babe's bat came off the shoulder. 
There was a solid crack, and then, sailing through the air unbelievably 
straight, high, and beautiful was the home ran Ruth had called. Travel- 
ing around the bases, Ruth was in the height of glee, slapping his knees, 
gesturing, hurling insults at the Cubs, waving his cap. He stopped on 
third, doubled over, straightened up and yelled "Squeeze the Eagle 
Club" at the Cub bench. Gehrig's homer, a few minutes later, broke the 
back of the Cubs, but it was anti-climactic. 

The amazing angle on this feat occurred in a hotel lobby later that 
evening, when someone asked Ruth how he would have felt if he- had 
missed that third one. Babe's little eyes opened wide, "Well, I'll be a 
blankety-blank," he said, "I never even thought of that!" That was Ruth. 
Play for the big one and never mind what might happen. And several 
seasons later, old Charlie Root, a great pitcher, admitted, 'The one to 
Ruth that day was the best pitch I ever threw." And there isn't a Cub 
player on that '32, team that won't brag about being there the day Ruth 
let 'em have it. 

It was Ruth's color that brought the fans through the turnstiles. They 
call Yankee Stadium "The House That Ruth Built" but Ruth was more 
to his team than just a glamorous attraction. Check through the Yankee 
records and you'll find that "as Babe Ruth went, so went the Yankees." 
When they won a pennant, it was usually because the Babe was teeing 
off day after day with those homers. And, as a defensive player, he was 
the equal of any of the great fielders. 

Out there in right field, the Babe could really cover the ground. Once, 
in a Series game against the Cards, he leaned over the side of the right- 
field boxes and grabbed a ball inches above the spectators' heads. Then, 
in typical Ruthian fashion, he stepped back, bowed, doffed his cap, and 

f 283 ] 

grinned. His throwing arm was remarkable, his tosses coming in low, 
bulletlike, and always true to the mark. This had nothing to do, as many 
believe, with the fact that he was once a great pitcher, for a fielder's 
throwing technique is totally different. 

"I never saw the Babe make a mistake in a ball game," Ed Barrow, the 
long-time Yankee official, said. "Ruth always knew, instinctively, what to 
do 011 a ball field." 

What made Ruth great was his ability to rise to any occasion, his 
sense of honest showmanship. Once, in a game against the White Sox 
in Chicago, the score was tied i-i in the fifteenth inning. As Ruth 
waited his turn to bat, he glanced over at Mark Roth, who was in charge 
of the Yankee transportation. 

"What's the matter?" Ruth said. "Ya look sick." 

Roth explained that he had a train waiting to take the Yankees home, 
but if the ball game didn't wind up soon they were going to miss it. 

'Take it easy/' Ruth grinned. Til fix that." 

Ruth then walked out and took his familiar stance in the box, well 
back, feet close together. He faced the crafty curve-ball hurler, Mike 
Cvengros. The first ball Mike pitched Ruth smashed into the right-field 
stands. As they were climbing aboard the train, which they had to run 
to catch, the Babe, puffing and steaming, said to Roth, "Now, why didn't 
you tell me about that before?" 

As a pitcher, Ruth, even as a youngster, had a godlike confidence in 
himself. During his years as hurler with the Red Sox, he beat the im- 
mortal Walter Johnson six times by a score of i-o. In a crucial game with 
Detroit, with the Sox leading by one run in the seventh inning, Ruth 
faced the Murderers Row of that time Bob Veach, Sam Crawford, and 
Ty Cobb. He struck them out, with the bases loaded, fanned 'em one- 

Old Herb Pennock, the Yankee pitcher, used to tell Ruth, "I always 
feel just like a kid at a circus whenever I see you hit a home run, Babe." 

The circus atmosphere carried over into his personal life. When Ruth 
and his family lived in a New York apartment, he used to throw an 
annual blowout for newsmen and photographers. When it was over, the 
penthouse always looked as though it had been swept by a Florida hur- 
ricane, paper and flashbulbs all over the floor. The Babe loved the flash- 
bulbs. He would gather diem up, walk over to the window, and drop 
them into the street far below, They fell like raindrops and when they 
hit it was like the Fourth of July. To the Babe the explosion was like 
the roar of the countless thousands who had just watched him crack an- 
other homer. 

Everyone knew the Babe, and he could get away with anything. 
Grantland Rice, a long-time golf-playing partner of the Babe, likes to tell 
about the time he and Ruth went roaring up a one-way street in New 

[ 2S4 ] 

York, traveling the wrong way in one of Ruth's shiny cars. A cop chased 
them in a motorcycle and, as Ruth pulled up to the curb, the cop began 
roaring, "Can't you see this is a one-way street?" 

"Why, you blankety-blank so-and-so!" the Babe roared back. "I'm 
driving one way!" 

The cop jumped on the running board, fighting mad. Then his face 
broke into a grin. 'Well, 111 he-it's Babe Ruth!" 

"How are you, kid?" Babe beamed. And that's all there was to that. 

Those were the golden, glorious years when life was wonderful for 
the Babe and he was riding high. Money was rolling in. A candy bar 
was named after him. He endorsed endless products. One year he car- 
ried around a check for $15,000, a gift from a company that made break- 
fast cereals. Ruth always had the check in his pocket wherever he went, 
into a bar, a restaurant, everywhere. When the time came to pay the bill, 
the Babe would pull out his 15 G check and tell diem to cash it This, 
of course, could never be done, and whoever was with Ruth had to pay 
the bill, while the Bambino roared. 

Ruth played this litde trick so many times that the check became bat- 
tered and torn, and it was almost impossible to read the figures. And, as 
the story goes, both the bank and the breakfast food company went broke 
in the depression, so Babe couldn't cash the check when he finally tried. 
But he took it with a grin and a shrug. He had had his fun, more than 
$15,000 worth. 

Few men knew George Herman Ruth as well as Ford Frick, now 
president of the National League. Frick, for many years, ghosted many 
of the articles which appeared under Ruth's byline. Sitting in his office 
in New York's RCA building, Frick likes to talk about Ruth. 

"The Babe was a perennial Peter Pan," Frick said, ''but he was not the 
big, dumb guy that some people would have you believe. Ruth's IQ was 
far above average* He had a native intelligence and that remarkable abil- 
ity to adjust to any situation. He was just a happy-go-lucky, friendly, 
big-hearted guy. Everyone liked him. I don't know of a single enemy 
he ever had, or a grudge he carried that lasted more than a few days," 

It is well known that Ruth generally traveled alone. He was seen with 
different friends every night. No man on the Yankee ball club was 
singled out by Ruth as a special friend, although Herb Pennock and 
Bob Meusel were probably with him most often outside the ball park. 

There was a reason for this, as Frick explained it. The Yankee man- 
agers, particularly little Miller Huggins, discouraged the other ball- 
players from becoming too attached to the Babe. He was a hero to most 
of them, particularly the younger players on the club, and if he took 
them along on his great, brawling, wonderful sprees, they would not 
have been able to absorb it the way the Babe could, 

In later years, when the King of Clout slowed down a little, he devel- 

[285 J 

oped an almost maternal instinct toward some of the Yankee players. 
It is not true, as has been written, that Lou Gehrig and Ruth did not get 
along together, Gehrig, shortly before his tragic death, told this writer 
that*Ruth was one of the best friends he had on the Yankee squad. He 
credited die Babe with helping him gain confidence when he first came 
to the Yanks and frankly admitted his awe and wonder at Ruth's great- 

There wasn't an ounce of envy or jealousy in the Babes character. 
There didn't have to be. He thought he was the best home-run hitler 
in the world and he was. What sometimes irked the quiet, shy Gehrig 
was Ruth's open and bombastic praise of the young Yankee in public, 
Ruth, Prick will tell you, worried about Gehrig much more than he ever 
did about himself. "Lou was sometimes embarrassed by the fatherly 
advice Ruth would often shower upon him publicly and privately/' saicl 
the National League boss. 

One of the most amusing lectures Ruth ever gave Gehrig started in 
the form of a philosophical discussion in a Chicago hotel lobby. 

"If a guy flops," the Babe began grandly, "if die managers turn against 
him, if everybody and everything goes back on a fellow, he can always 
be sure of his eats as a waiter. But, Lou/' Ruth went on seriously, u a 
young fellow like you ought to save your money. Now, a bird has got 
to think of the time when he can't play ball no longer." 

This was enormously hilarious to the ballplayers who heard it and 
who had, for years, watched the Babe throw his money away with the 
carefree air of a kid discarding used peanut shells. But when Ruth gave 
Gehrig that earnest spiel, he meant it with all of his great and good heart. 

Ruth taught Gehrig how to get more power into his drives, how to 
hook a ball at the end of a swing. These were things the sports recorders 
of the day passed over, not because they didn't want to credit the Babe, 
but there was always something more colorful to write about him. 

There was one incident that tells more clearly than anything else why 
ballplayers loved Ruth. It was mid-season and Ruth and Gehrig were 
very close in the matter of home runs hit. Then, on a Western swing 
of the Yankees, Gehrig pulled the impossible. One day, with a mighty 
clout, he caught up with the Babe in homers hit. 

That night, on the train, Ruth suddenly burst into the Pullman, his 
arms loaded with jars of pickeled eels. This, as everyone knew, was 
Gehrig's favorite dish, Ruth, after Gehrig had tied him in homers, had 
toured the town buying all the jars of pickeled eels he could find. This 
was the Babe's surprise party for Lou. The whole train was invited to 
attend Babe's party for Gehrig, which lasted most of the night 

Ruth loved a celebration, a big time. He loved noise and laughter 
with music, all the things he had never had as a kid* When there wasn't 
a reason for a blowout, the Babe invented one. Even on road trips there 

[ 286 ] 

was a party air in any surroundings where the King was* His portable 
phonograph was always with him, grinding out loud, sentimental tunes, 
which the Babe accompanied in his foghorn voice. 

The Babe drove his flashy, shiny automobiles at breakneck speed. One 
night, after a game in Washington, with his wife and several ballplayers 
in the car, Ruth sped through the night, bellowing songs at the top of 
his voice. He had cracked two homers that day and it was difficult to stay 
on anything as low as a road. He didn't. The car swerved, left the high- 
way, and rolled over several times. By some miracle, nobody was seri- 
ously injured. The headlines that next morning screamed that Babe 
Ruth had been killed in an auto accident, but the Babe disproved it by 
hitting a circuit clout off the Athletics that afternoon in Philadelphia 
and tossing another party that night 

It is fantastic that a man who indulged in such outlandish abuse of 
himself physically could go on year after year, the way the Babe did. It 
actually caught up with him only once. That was in 1925, when Ruth,, 
on a Yankee-Dodger exhibition tour, swung off the train in a tiny South- 
ern town and, hugely happy and hungry, gorged himself to the score 
of 12 hot dogs and eight bottles of soda pop. 

"Saw Ruth in half," somebody once cracked at Yankee Stadium, "and 
you'll find half of Stevens' concession in him/' 

But that day, it did not turn out funny. The Babe, green of face and 
filled with pain, was stricken with acute indigestion by the time the train 
reached Asheville, North Carolina. He was rushed to New York, to St. 
Vincent's Hospital, where for a week the condition of Babe Ruth's 
stomach was discussed all around the world. Fie very nearly died. Just 
as they were to do in his final illness 23 years later, little kids sat out 
in the streets under his window with flowers, sport fans across the coun- 
try, housewives and school girls, read the daily bulletins about his health 
and fretted and prayed for him. 

And then, all of a sudden, there he was again, out in Yankee Stadium, 
looking a little pale and weak, but ready to swing the big bat. Even 
when he got sick, Babe had to do it in a large and lavish fashion. 

No photograph of Ruth, whether in baseball uniform or civilian 
clothes, can give a true image of the man. You had to see him in person. 
Picture a huge, unshapely man, six feet tall, most of his 220 pounds 
seemingly beginning at his waist and traveling upward to round, broad, 
massive shoulders. Picture too a bearlike quality about the upper half 
of his body, supported by small, frail-looking legs and delicate ankles. 

Think of the Babe's head: overly large, heavy, like a big, round ball 
on his shoulders. A face both comic and ugly, kindly and fierce, the face 
of toughness and poverty and honesty. A strong, earthy face, with a 
large, pushed-in nose, a squat-featured face, with small, deep-sunk, 
bright brown eyes under a low forehead. His teeth tiny and even, his 

[287 ] 

hair darlc brown. A common, everyday, kicked-around, wonderfully hu- 
man face. A round face ugly the way Abe Lincoln's long face was ugly, 
a face you would, upon seeing it, never forget. In any kind of a crowd, 
instantly recognizable unmistakablealways the Babe. 

Ruth's civilian clothes fitted his personality. He liked them rich and 
colorful, tending mostly to brilliant browns and tans. In his heyday, his 
favorite costume was a huge tan-colored polo coat, which made him 
seem even more massive and he generally wore a cap. "Don't picture 
Ruth in an ordinary hat," the ace sportswriter, Frank Graham, said. "It 
just wouldn't look right/' 

It wouldn't. Nothing ordinary looked good on the "Jedge/' as his 
Yankee teammates called him. 

It was always a source of constant amazement and good-natured envy 
to other ballplayers when they saw the reaction most women had on 
meeting Ruth. They loved him. They passed by the more slim-figured, 
handsome-faced men to trot around on the arm of the Babe. "It ain't 
his looks. It ain't the way he talks/' a big league shortstop once said, 
seeing Ruth surrounded by women. "It's a kind of a magic that gets 'em/' 

The magic is explainable. It has always worked not only on women 
but on everyone. Ruth's attraction always was his down-to-earth, warm, 
natural approach. Ruth was a hero not only because he could hit home 
runs, but as the guy-who-would-show-you-the-best-time-in-thc-world, a 
man with tremendous personal magnetism, coarse and rough, but all 
man, and oozing warmth and confidence. The small, warm eyes held 
the glitter of good times. 

To the Babe, anything feminine under 35 years of age was called 
"Sister." Older than that it was "Mom,* but when the name rumbled 
out of his massive chest it was loving and intimate. He called old friends 
"Kid," because he never remembered names, but that "kid" meant just 
as much as if he had remembered the person's first name. 

"I guess Babe knew my name well enough/' Ed Barrow said, "but he 
would often call me Uncle or Pop. That was the way the Babe was. 
Plenty of names he didn't know. Bill Dickey stayed with the Babe for 
eight years and Babe never could remember his name." 

Probably no man in baseball had as great an influence on Babe Ruth 
as Edward Grant Barrow, No man crossed Barrow more than once* He 
was the greatest rough-and-tumble fighter of his time, one of the guiding 
spirits behind the Yankees. 

For 22 years, Ed Barrow knew Babe Ruth as well as one man can 
know another. He coached him, befriended him, punished him, forgave 
him, advised him, once almost beat the hell out ot him. "But/' the good 
old man said, sitting in the deep chair, thinking back, "there is just one 
real feeling I have left about the Babe I miss him/' The old man 
paused. "I miss him because he was more trouble than any ballplayer 

[ 288 ] 

who ever lived and maybe," a small smile came across his face, "that's 
why I miss him the most." 

It was, as many people know, Ed Barrow who made Ruth from a 
pitcher into an outfielder. Everyone gives Barrow credit for that, except 
Barrow himself. It was Barrow who, watching Ruth take his cuts at the 
plate, first put him in as pinch hitter. And then Barrow chased him into 
the outfield and encouraged the Babe to learn all he could about that 
right-field position. 

"But nobody really made Ruth into an outfielder," Barrow said. "He 
made himself. You didn't have to teach him anything." 

It was big Ed Barrow, however, who was the first to see that Ruth 
would be more valuable as a hitter than a pitcher, more of an asset play- 
ing every day than in one or two games a week. The real story of how 
the Babe changed over is one for Barrow to tell, because he is the only 
one who really knows it. 

"In 1918," Barrow related, "the Babe had been doubling between 
pitching and the outfield, playing 95 games for me in right field* In 1919, 
early in the season, I called him in one day before a game and asked 
him what he would rather do be a pitcher or stay in the outfield." 

That warm, early Summer afternoon when the tall, not fully grown 
kid stood in front of Manager Barrow, baseball history was being made. 
The Babe wrinkled his forehead, brushed a meaty finger over his large 
nose, and thought about it, Barrow said, for a full moment. 

"Don't suppose I could go on playing both, Ed 1 ?" he said. 

Barrow smiled. 

"Nope, guess not," Babe said hesitantly. "Well, then, 111 play the 

That was it. If he had said he wanted to remain a pitcher, Barrow 
would probably not have forced the issue. Ruth was already established 
as one of the best hurlers of the day. Perhaps he would have switched 
eventually to the outfield, but Barrow won't take the credit for sending 
him there. In Ed's book, Ruth made the decision himself. 

Talking about Ruth, Barrow's slow, heavy voice made the past come 
to life again* Barrow remembered, chuckling quietly, about Ruth's ter- 
rible memory for names and faces and what happened in a World Series 
game in 1918 against the Cubs. 

"Ruth was pitching that day," Barrow said, "and Coach Bill Caragan 
told him to be careful of a hitter named Leslie Mann. He advised the 
Babe to dust Mann off, scare him away from hitting." 

The Babe said he sure would, as Barrow told about it, still smiling. In 
the second inning, facing a big Cub batter, Ruth let one fly at the bat- 
ter's head. The man couldn't get out of the way fast enough and the 
pitch flattened him. Ruth came into the bench after the inning, all 

f 289 ] 

"Say," lie grinned at Caragan, "I guess I gave that fellow Mann a 
dusting he won't forget." 

"Why, you silly so-and-so/* Carrigan hollered, "that wasn't Mann, that 
was Max Flack." 

The Babe just stood there and took Carrigan's tongue lashing and 
Barrow and his ballplayers turned away to hide their laughing faces. 
Barrow knows most of the best stories about the Babe's bad memory for 
faces. A second baseman for the Browns, who had played against Babe 
all season, stopped him one afternoon after a close Yankee-Brown game 
in St. Louis and remarked about what a tough game it had been, "It sure 
was/' Ruth said, shaking his head. "Did you get out to see it?" 

Once, Herb Pennock asked Ruth to go out with him for an evening 
and Ruth said he couldn't because he had a date with a couple of people. 
Herb asked who it was. Babe scratched his head and said, "I dunno, that 
man and woman in the movies." That man and woman were Doug 
Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. 

"St. Louis and Washington were always towns in which the Babe got 
into the most mischief/' Barrow laughed. "I guess he had more good- 
time-Charlie friends there. One night in Washington, I stayed up all 
night waiting for him to get in." 

Barrow was the Red Sox pilot then, with a reputation for being strict 
with his players. He had hired a coach named Dan Howlcy who told 
Barrow, "You let me room with that big fellow and 111 have a ring in his 
nose in no time." The ring lasted until that night in Washington. 

At six A.M. Barrow stormed into the room to find Ruth in bed, the 
covers up to his neck, peacefully smoking a pipe. 

< Where have you been?" Barrow raged. "What are you doing smoking 
that pipe?" 

"Well, now, Ed," the Babe said, "I always like to smoke a pipe this 
time of morning." 

Barrow pulled back the covers. Ruth was fully dressed, shoes and all. 
That afternoon, in the dressing room, his stomach slightly upset, the 
Babe growled out loud about what he was going to do to certain people. 
"If they don't quit snoopin' around in my private affairs/* the Babe said, 
looking at Barrow, "they are gonna get a punch in the nose." 

Barrow was not a man who frightened easily. He walked over to 
where Babe was standing, thrust out his jaw and said, "Nobody is going 
to talk to me like that. I want everybody out of this dressing room but 

Then Barrow walked across the room and began to take off his coat 
When he turned around, everybody was out of the room, including 
Ruth. In fact, by the time Ed Barrow got his coat off, the Babe was in 
deep right field chasing flies. 

Ed went out, called Ruth in from the field, and told him he was sus- 

[ 290 ] 

pended That night, on the train, there was a knock on Barrow's com* 
partment door. It was, as Ed suspected, the Babe. He wanted to talk 
things over. He'd just been upset, he said, and he hoped that everything 
was okay now, 

"You're still suspended," Barrow said curtly, 

"Couldn't you just wire the Judge and have it lifted?" Babe pleaded. 

Barrow said he would let Ruth know in the morning. The Babe went 
away, but he was back again in a half hour, saying, "Listen, Ed, can't 
you please let me know tonight? I can't sleep." 

Barrow lifted the suspension then and there and Ruth went down the 
car whooping and hollering joyously. Barrow told the story not to show 
what a Peck's bad boy Ruth was, but to indicate how deeply he loved 
baseball. Nothing was a more cruel punishment than depriving him of 
the right to play. 

Nobody had more migraine from the big swat king's tempestuous be- 
havior than little Miller Huggins, the great Yankee manager. The $5,000 
fine and indefinite suspension that he slapped on the Babe in 1925 
crashed into every newspaper in the country. It was, because it was Ruth, 
the largest fine ever dealt a ballplayer. It was the result of many things: 
Ruth's bad behavior in the clubhouse, his heckling of Hug, his escapades 
by candlelight, and his refusal to accept discipline and stay in shape. 

The scenes between Huggins and Ruth in the Yankee clubhouse were 
often a bad example to younger players, but they afforded some of the 
most picturesque and explosive dialogue ever heard in baseball. 

"Why, you little runt/' Ruth would explode. "Where do you get off, 
callin* me a big mug?" 

"You're a big, no-good mug," Hug would rant. "God made you that 
way and you'll always be that way!" 

"If you wasn't such a little runt!" Ruth would storm, "I'd smack you 

"Why, you lousy, stinkin' stiff," Hug would come back. "Get outa 

"Why don't you send me out?" Ruth would yell "G'wan, you haven't 
got enough guts!" 

So it would go. It reached a climax in St. Louis in 1925 when Hug 
did put the skids under Ruth. The Babe climbed on a train and told 
reporters at all the stops all the way to New York just what was going 
to happen to Miller Huggins after Babe Ruth talked it over with Jake 

The first person Hug called after he had fined and suspended Ruth 
was Ed Barrow. Ruth's ex-manager told Huggins that the Babe had it 
coming. He said that he would back him up all the way, if Huggins 
would stick to his guns. Barrow knew his Babe Ruth and knew that the 
best thing that could happen to the man was a sound chastising* 

[291 } 

"Ruth was yelling pretty loud when he left St. Louis that day/' Bar- 
row smiled, "But the closer he got to New York, the more he began 
thinking how terrible it was to be out of a Yankee uniform. By the time 
he got to Grand Central, the Babe wasn't quite sure he was entirely 
right. But the newspapers were rolling out stories of his threats and so 
he had to follow it through and see Ruppert." 

It was a sadder and wiser man who walked out of Colonel Ruppert's 
office that day in New York. Barrow and the owner of the Yankees 
talked turkey and Ruth was forced to tell the world that he had "done 
wrong/' He'd play ball for Muggins, he said. He was sorry about every- 

Nobody could accept defeat more gracefully than Ruth. lie never 
held a grudge. In spite of the years of quarreling with Huggins, once 
the Babe got on the right track again, he forgave his little manager 
everything. As the years rolled along, Ruth's affection for Huggins grew 
and those who knew Huggins well said that he had more genuine love 
for Babe Ruth than for any of his Yankees, with the possible exception 
of Gehrig. When Hug died, managing the Yanks right up to almost the 
last moment, Ruth was the saddest man on the squad. 

One angle about the fine that Barrow revealed was that although 
Ruth paid it, Colonel Ruppert, many years later, returned the money. It 
was not returned, however, until after the death of Miller Huggins, as 
Ruppert had made Hug a promise that the fine would stick. The $5,000 
was handed back to Ruth because he had kept good his promise to toe- 
the-line for Hug. 

Money was always a problem to Ruth in his early days in baseball; 
he couldn't seem to throw it away fast enough. It was Ed Barrow and 
Christy Walsh, the manager of Babe's syndicate and endorsement deals, 
who finally got Ruth to take out the insurance and annuity policies that 
he lived on after his retirement from baseball. 

The Bambino's seasonal holdouts for more money were always a 
splendid source of newspaper copy back in the days when the Babe was 
being paid $40,000, then $52,000, then the unbelievable sum of $80,000 
for a season of ball playing. None of the holdouts were phony. The Babe 
believed he was worth a million dollars a year, the way he hit those 
homers. Once, in St. Petersburg, Florida, after a long siege of refusing 
to come to terms, he signed a $50,000 contract under the bleachers dur- 
ing a practice session. He signed it without even reading the terms. 

Ballplayers owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Babe Ruth for inad- 
vertently upping the salaries of all big-league players. Ruth's yearly 
clamor for more money, the stubborn victories he won in getting paid 
what he was worth, benefited other players. A popular chant at the 
time, among less spectacular performers, was, <f lf that guy Ruth is worth 
$80,000, I must be worth at least a third of that!" Some owners of ball 


clubs have never quite forgiven the Babe for starting the trend that has 
enabled players to share a rightful amount of the profits. 

There was a great deal of bluff in Ruth, but It was always backed by 
courage. One of the things that tickled his teammates most was the 
Babe's opinion that he was as great a man with his fists as he was with 
a bat in his hand. Once, with Bob Meusel In tow, he stormed into the 
Giant dressing room after a hectic game and might have wound up 
taking on the whole club. The presence of newspapermen averted the 
fight. A Giant player suggested that Ruth was putting on the show for 
the benefit of the press, which so embarrassed the big fellow that he 
made all of them promise it would never be mentioned in the news- 
papers. It wasn't, until years later. 

The Babe was actually not very handy when it did come to a show- 
down fight. Nobody remembers a fight that he ever won. The same Bob 
Meusel who was backing Babe up that day in the Giant dressing room, 
has, so the stories go, batted the Babe on the beezer plenty of times. 

Babe loved to ride anyone whom he could really upset. One of his 
favorite targets was the Yankees' great first-sacker, Wally Pipp. In St. 
Louis one day, Pipp was having a bad time of it, muffing every ball that 
came his way. The Babe was riding him incessantly, having the time of 
his life. In the seventh inning, Pipp bungled an easy grounder. Ruth 
trotted in from the field and gave him some lip. 

"Say another word/' Pipp growled, "and 111 punch you in the nose." 

Ruth was instantly the warrior. "Why, you big baboon," the Babe 
threatened, "you wouldn't dare to " 

Ruth never finished the sentence. Pipp let one go and it caught the 
Babe right on the snout. Down he went. He got up and began swinging 
again, but those who saw the fight say that Pipp had all the best of it. 
The players separated the two contestants. Pipp strode to the plate, hop- 
ping mad, and smacked a home run into the right-field bleachers. Ruth, 
following him, dropped another homer in the same spot. 

That night Pipp and Ruth shook hands and were off on a good time 
together. But, a few days later, it was Ruth and Waite Hoyt in a tangle, 
with Hoyt getting all the best of it. 

None of Ruth's brawling exhibitions, on or off the field, ever lowered 
him in the eyes of his fans. The wonderful and fascinating thing about 
the man was that everything he did seemed so essentially human. He 
was the most accessible of all ballplayers. Anyone could approach him. 
He had a ready handshake for everybody, a big grin, a friendly gesture 
or a large "Hullo, there, how are you?" for a working stiff, or a man in a 
$200 suit. But most of all, he belonged to the kids, 

Every year, thousands of grimy little hands thrust out baseballs for 
the autograph that sent them away with eyes shining. The Babe always 
complied* On slow days in right field, he would lean against the bleacher 

[ 293 ] 

screen and chat with the kids. He would pose for pictures, pat them on 
the head, ask them questions, talk man-to-man with them about baseball 

Of all the stories about the things he did for kids, perhaps the most 
wonderful one concerns the trip he made to New Jersey one day to see 
a 13-year-old boy named Johnny Sylvester. The boy had undergone a 
serious operation and had failed to improve. He needed something to 
hold him together, to make him want to fight for life. 

The boy's hero was Babe Ruth. Some say it was a doctor, others a 
newspaperman, still others the boy's father who called Ruth at Yankee 
Stadium and told him the story. It doesn't matter who called. The next 
morning the door of the hospital ward opened and in walked Babe Ruth. 

Paul Gallico, describing the scene, wrote, ". . . it was God himself 
who walked into the room, straight from His glittering throne, God 
dressed in a camel's-hair polo coat and fiat camel's-hair cap, God with a 
flat nose and little piggy eyes and a big grin, and a fat, black cigar 
slicking out of the side of it." 

Ruth sat on the edge of the bed and talked to the boy as long as the 
doctors would allow him to stay. He talked about baseball, scrawled his 
name on a ball, and handed it to the boy. Then he leaned down and 
told Johnny that he was going to hit a home run that afternoon, espe- 
cially for him. 

Ruth could always call his shots when they were great enough. He 
did hit that homer for Johnny. And the boy lived. It really doesn't mat- 
ter that, a few weeks later, when the boy's father approached the Babe 
in a hotel lobby and thanked him for saving the life of his son, the Babe 
couldn't remember the boy's name. He didn't have to remember it. The 
name wasn't important, the life was. 

The stories about Ruth and kids are endless. His sincere love of them 
was never doubted. Even the endlessly rolling presses grinding out 
maudlin and often phony and concocted stories about his feeling for 
them, could not destroy or lessen the true fact that the Babe's affection 
for kids was wholly honest, wonderful, and generous. 

It seems strange and incredible that the man who has always loved 
kids so much got little of that close, personal, warm love when he, him- 
self, was a kid. But that probably explains why Ruth thought so much 
of children, and wanted them to have so much of everything. For the 
small boy, who was to become the hero of the kids of the nation, was a 
cast-off, discarded, ill-fed, ill-treated youngster, one whose earliest days 
were spent amid the stink and viciousness of abject poverty. 

Not much has been told about Ruth ? s early life. The Babe never 
liked to dwell upon those days. The facts are vague and misty, but 
piecing them together you get enough to know that he began life as a 
battered, pushed-around little nobody, scratching for food, struggling to 
stay alive, unwanted by anyone. 

f 294 ] 

The Babe's earliest recollections, he once wrote, were of the violent, 
traffic-congested streets along the Baltimore waterfront. He recalled the 
curses of die truck drivers, the way they would slash at lads' legs with 
their whips. He remembered the hatred for "coppers," as he called them, 
and fist fights, and being shagged, and living on the crummy borderline 
of crime. 

He was not born with the last name of Ruth. There has always been 
a doubt as to who his parents were and what his last name really was. 
It was either Gearhardt or Erhardt and he was born, if the records are 
correct, on February 7, 1895, in a house in Baltimore, Maryland. Ruth's 
mother died when he was very young. Some say her first name was Ruth, 
but that has never been verified. His father was a rough, brawling man, 
who occasionally made his living as a butcher and was killed, if the oft- 
repeated story is true, in a street fight 

Barrow seems to think the Babe had a brother named Benjamin, but 
he isn't sure. One story has it that Ruth, while playing with the Red 
Sox, gave money to his father to set him up in business. But others 
maintain that Ruth's father was killed when he was five or six years old. 
But he was not, as most people believe, an orphan. 

Shortly before he became seven years old, the youngster was picked 
up on the streets of Baltimore and sent to the St. Mary's Industrial 
Home, a Catholic institution which was dedicated to reforming and 
guiding the discarded and unmanageable kids who roamed in wild bands 
in Ruth's neighborhood. 

A kindly man named Brother Gilbert took personal charge of the 
youngster and was to help him all the rest of his life. In later years, 
when Ruth slipped into wild habits, Miller Huggins sometimes sent for 
Brother Gilbert to talk to Ruth and it was the one influence that always 
steadied him. 

At St. Mary's, Ruth was truculent and hard to manage. At first, he 
missed the roving toughs of the street gangs. But Brother Gilbert stead- 
fastly stood by the boy, got him interested in athletics, and told the other 
brothers that great things were in store for George, as he always called 
him. There were 43 different ball teams at St. Mary's and young Ruth 
soon got into the swing of things. 

The good brothers of St. Mary's often worried about young Ruth. 
Even then, he never seemed to take very good care of himself. In the 
Winter he would stroll about in an open shirt, and he always disdained 
underwear. One time, on a very cold day, Brother Paul found Ruth sit- 
ting in the open yard, wearing only a pair of torn trousers and a 
thin, cotton shirt. Brother Paul told him to go inside and put on warm 

"Aw naw, Brother Paul," the kid grinned. Tm too tough to catch 
cold." And he was. 

f 2P5 ] 

The brothers taught Ruth a trade. As a child, he was a shirtaiaker. 
But it was baseball that really fascinated Ruth. 

Big George, as the kids called him (he was always large for his age) 
played every position on the various ball teams. On the school's first team, 
he finally settled down as a catcher. He caught left-handed. Although 
Ruth always threw and batted left-handed, he wrote with his right hand, 
something sportswriters of the day never noticed until Ruth pointed it 
out to them. 

During his last year in St. Mary's, Ruth switched to pitching. When- 
ever he was hurling, the whole school turned out to watch him mow the 
batters down. Many of the other brothers at St. Mary's tried to get him 
interested In some trade, but it was Brother Gilbert who understood that 
the boy was destined to become a ballplayer. It was Brother Gilbert who 
wrote a letter to Jack Dunn, then manager of the Baltimore Orioles, and 
begged him to come and have a look at the Babe. 

Ruth was just 18 when Dunn came to see him play. He was wearing 
a pair of faded, blue overalls, too small to contain his then long, thin, 
out-of-joint-looking body. But Dunn was impressed enough to want 
Ruth and, a few days later, Brother Gilbert called the kid and told him 
about Dunn's offer. 

Ruth was bewildered and delirious with excitement. He could scarcely 
believe that anybody would pay him to play baseball It was arranged 
that Jack Dunn would become his guardian and that his salary for the 
year would be $600. In the Spring of 1914, the 1 9-year-old George Her- 
man Ruth reported to the Oriole training camp. On that day, the name 
"Babe" was created. 

Ruth, tagging at Dunn's heels, walked out on the ball field. A man 
named Stienman, a coach for the Baltimore club, grinned^ and said, 
"Well, here comes Jack with his newest babe." The nickname stuck. 

Before the season was well under way, Dunn had doubled his salary. 
Then he sold him to Joe Lannin, owner of the Boston Red Sox. Ruth 
was sold with a pitcher named Shore and an inficlder named Egan and 
the total price for all three was $22,000, Ruth was not quite ready for 
the big leagues, manager Red Carrigan and boss Ed Barrow thought, so 
they farmed him out to Providence in the International League. 

Ruth went so well in Providence that he was recalled to Boston before 
the season was out. That was the last and only time that the Babe was 
ever sent to the minors. Ruth pitched four games for the Reel Sox that 
year. He was credited with winning two and losing one. In 1915 he 
won 1 8 games and lost only six. Ruth was beginning to fill out now. 
Few of the players on the Oriole team would have recognized the kid 
who bought a bicycle when he came to Baltimore and rode it at break- 
neck speed around the town. 

At 19, the Babe began to look around and enjoy life. He bought a car 

[ 296 / 

that Summer and married a 1 6-year-old waitress, a Texas girl named 
Helen Woodford, later burned to death in a tragic hotel fire. They Bad 
two children, who died in infancy. In that same year, Ruth struck out 
I lomc Run Baker and hit the first home run of his big-league career. 

That homer was hit against a young club in the American League 
called, the New York Yankees. Ruth was pitching that day against Jack 
Warhop, The day was May 1 6, 1915. When Ruth came to the plate and 
took his peculiar stance, the fans broke into laughter. When he smacked 
Warhop's pitch over the right-field fence, the customers howled with 
glee. But they told each other it was a freak, a lucky thing. Only the 
Babe, and possibly Ed Barrow and Canigan, knew it wasn't Ruth was 
broken-hearted that clay, for he lost the ball game to Warhop in the last 
of the ninth. 

In the years that followed, '15 to '18, rival pitchers learned to fear the 
big man with the peculiar stance. His fame as a home-run hitter began 
to grow. But he was still known best as the top pitcher in the American 
League. Ty Cobb had more trouble hitting Ruth than any pitcher in 
baseball In a game against Detroit one day, Cobb got so mad at Ruth 
they almost came to blows. 

Cobb claimed that day that Ruth was doctoring the ball He was toss- 
In^ a strange throw that he called a "sailer," a ball which, when It broke, 
actually seemed to "sail" away from die bat. Ty took a cut at it, missed, 
and demanded to see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans handed it to him, 
then tossed it out of the game. Cobb took a swing at another one, missed 
again* In all, Cobb made umpire Evans throw away six balls. He finally 
struck out. 

"You're cheating!" the great Tyrus raged at Ruth. 'Til find out how 
you do it and run you right outa the league!" 

Ruth doubled over with laughter. Cobb never did find out. 

Cobb, whom Ruth could always rile, was a great ballplayer in Ruth's 
estimation. In later years, he credited Cobb with being the greatest hit- 
ter in baseball. But Ruth's paramount idols were Harry Hooper and 
Tris Speaker, who did a great deal to give him the polish that was later 
to make him such a great man in the outfield. In Ruth's book, there has 
never been an outfielder who could approach the fielding skill and all- 
around playing of the old Red Soxer, Harry Hooper. 

Although it wasn't until 1919 that Ruth's fame became nationwide, 
the legend of Ruth began, for ballplayers, the first day he put on a Red 
Sox uniform. The Babe pitched his first big-league game on July n, 
1914, against Cleveland, whipping them, 4-3. He went into the game 
with no sleep, having stayed up all night on the train from Baltimore to 

He pitched the longest game in World Series play, 14 innings, in 
1916, and won it from the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Ruth's hurling in 

( 297 } 

1915 that helped bring the Red Sox their fourth pennant. lie led them to 
another in 1918, when he set his record for the most scoreless innings 
pitched in World Series play. That year Ruth played 95 games in the 
outfield, hit 1 1 homers. 

It was the Babe, switching to a permanent position in the outfield, 
who turned the spotlight from pitchers to hitters. Until Ruth, the great 
baseball heroes were the moundsmen, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alex- 
ander, Eddie Plank. But the Babe had broken Mathewson's pitching 
record. There were only a few more things he could have done as hurler, 
He was one of the great left-handers in the American League. 

The 1919 home-run clouting of Babe Ruth was considered; at the 
time, a feat that would never again be equaled in baseball. That year, 
his last with the Red Sox, he hit 29 home runs, batted .322. Against the 
years when Ruth was later to hit 40 and 50 and 60 home runs in a 
season, it does not seem like much. But at that time, no major-leaguer 
had ever hit that many. Cliff Cravath of the Phillies, in 1915, had hit 24 
homers. In 1902 Socks Seybold of the Athletics had hit 16. But 29! To 
the fans it was unbelievable. 

Babe Ruth's name echoed across the country. Everywhere the Reel 
Sox performed, the fans turned out in droves to watch Ruth wave that 
bio, 54~ounce stick, the largest one in baseball. The Babe took his suc- 
cess in his stride. He put on great shows. He challenged pitchers up and 
down the land to stop him. The kid who four years ago had been riding 
around on his first bike, bought with baseball money, now opened a 
cigar factory in Boston, with a picture of the Babe on every wrapper. 
In Tampa, Florida, in an exhibition game, he hit what has been recorded 
as the longest home run in history. The ball traveled 587 feet from 
Ruth's bat, landing in a racetrack across the street from the ball 

On July 1 8, 1919, Lee Fohl, manager of the Cleveland Indians, sent 
in his best pitcher, Coumbe, to stop the rising young star. Ruth an- 
swered by cracking a home run off Coumbe with the bases loaded. And, 
as the story goes, after the game Fohl, in disgust, resigned as manager. 

Up in New York, a man named Ruppert sat in his brewery office and 
read about Ruth, He had a ball club named the New York Yankees. 
Ruppert had ambition, Ruth had that big club, and Harry Frazee, owner 
of the Red Sox, needed money. The Babe was sold for $100,000, Rup- 
pert lent Frazee $350,000 more, and took a mortgage on Fenway Park. 

Only a few have ever bothered to point out that the man who was to 
make the Yankees the greatest ball team in the world, was genuinely 
angry and unhappy about the deal that sent him to New York. The 
Babe said, "I like Boston. I got my start here and my heart is right here/' 
But he went to New York and in 1920, his first year with the Yankees, 
he sent the sports world into verbal hysteria by rapping out 54 homers. 

[298 ] 

The era of the hitter was definitely In, and Babe Ruth was to lead them 
all for 14 more glorious years. 

Even the old norsehide itself was changed to benefit the tremendous 
drawing power of the Babe. The 'lively" ball was introduced to the 
American League, to be adopted a year later by the National League, 
Home-run hitters sprang up like mushrooms, but none could even come 
close to the records that Ruth was setting. Ball parks bulged whenever 
Ruth played in them. The King of Swat was introduced to the world. 
Twenty thousand fan letters a week poured in, burying the few letters 
Ruth still got from the good brothers at St. Mary's. 

If Ruth had been unmanageable in Boston, he was 10 times more so 
with the Yankees. Life was one wonderful, glorious spree and nobody 
bothered, or dared, to bust it up. Ruppert and Barrow, who joined the 
club shortly after Ruth, let America's new idol swing along on his merry 
way. "That big mug has an iron constitution/' they said. "He can take 
it." Or, "What's the difference what Ruth does, just as long as he keeps 
slamming them over the fence?" 

In a sense, this was true. Nobody should have deprived the Babe of 
those glorious, good times. He had diem, coming to him. Those who are 
cheated of a decent early childhood have a right to stick their fists into 
life when the good days come, and grab all they can. The Babe grabbed. 
He ate 10 meals a day. He traveled and lived in style. He bought large 
and dazzling motor cars, smashed them up, and bought more. 

Ping Bodie, who was listed on the roster of the Yankees as Babe 
Ruth's roommate, seldom saw him except in uniform. Once, when some- 
body asked Ping who he was rooming with, the ballplayer grinned and 
said, 'With a suitcase/' That crack tickled ballplayers all over the coun- 
try. But in 1921, training on parties and late hours and liquids of a 
"dubious nature, the 26-year-old rowdy whacked 59 balls clean out of the 
park for still another record* 

It seems as though you could write forever and never record all there 
is to say about Ruth. One of the great things about the Babe was that 
he never lost his love of the game he played or his wonderful enthusiasm 
for living. He got in dutch by hopping into the stands one day and 
trying to beat the daylights out of a fan who had been razzing him. A 
Ruth batting slump was the most colossal tragedy in the world. Once, 
after striking out five times in a row, he smashed his favorite bat to 
pieces. In 1921, he went on an unauthorized exhibition tour with Bob 
Meusel, and was suspended by Judge Landis. The suspension kept Ruth 
out of the first six weeks of the 1922 season, but, once back in the 
line-up, his big bat led the Yanks to another pennant 

The years rolled on. From 1919 to 1931, Ruth led the league in 
homers 1 1 times including a tie with Gehrig. Nobody could touch him. 
In 1929, it was still Ruth who kept the Yankees out in front. The coun- 


try was rocking from the Wall Street crash, and the Great Depression 
was just around the comer, but the sportswriters found solace in die fact 
that nothing affected the Babe. 

Every year there was one special, highlight story about the King of 
Swat. There was that sentimental and wonderful dinner that Babe gave 
for the sportswriters of the country, after having almost ruined himself 
by his wild dissipation in 1924 and 1925. James J. Walker, then a Sena- 
tor, arose and made a speech begging Ruth to reform for the kids of the 
country. It might have been maudlin, but it wasn't because the Babe 
stood up and, with tears running down his big, ugly face promised to 
behave, to turn over a new leaf, and be an inspiration to those who wor- 
shipped him. Babe did. He didn't actually turn saint, but he kept his 
promise and was never again in serious trouble with umpires or mana- 

A few years later, by 1929, the Babe had settled down quite a bit He 
married for the second time, a Ziegfeld Follies girl named Claire Hodg- 
son, He became a proud and careful parent to his two girls, Julia and 
Dorothy. He was learning moderation and restraint, everywhere except 
at the plate, where he whacked out 54 homers in '28 and 46 in "29. 

The money kept on rolling in. Ruppert was giving him a bonus of 
$100 for every circuit swat His salary was climbing. As a ballplayer, 
Ruth was to go on to earn a total playing salary of $872,000 and over a 
million dollars from his ghost-written stories and endorsements, barn- 
storming, and the movies. Twice he hit three home runs in one game. 
He had his picture taken with Marshal Foch. Kids in India, England, 
Japan and even Burma, knew about Babe Ruth. Somebody gave him an 
ornate crown to wear on his head, as befitting the King of Swat, but he 
wore it for one photo and then put it away. 

In his spare time, when the party craze began to wear off, you could 
find Ruth on the days when baseball wasn't being played, out on the 
golf links or in a bowling alley. He shot in the low 70*$, and bowled a 
fine game. He loved to hunt and once, when he should have been a 
co-star with Queen Marie of Roumania at a reception, he stayed out all 
afternoon with another ballplayer, potting at pheasant, saying, "Aw, 
heck, they won't niiss me in all that crowd and that Queen will under- 

If there was ever a breaking point in the career of Babe Ruth, it was 
probably on the day that Miller Muggins died. The "great little guy*' as 
the Babe called him, meant more to Ruth than most people realized. Or 
perhaps the climax of Ruth's career was that '32 series against the Cubs. 
He was never as good after that. He was 37 years old. The power was 
still there, the eyes were still small, sharp and good, but his legs were 
going back on him. The great Babe was slowing up. 

More than anything else, the Babe wanted to manage the Yankees. 

[ 300 ] 

One of the reasons lie never warmed up to manager Joe McCarthy was 
because Ruppert had given to McCarthy the job that Ruth had always 
dreamed about. In 1933, the Babe was down to 34 homers for the sea- 
son. In '34 he was playing only occasionally. He hit 22 home runs that 
year. For the first time he had gone below the 29 home runs of 1919 
when he began his league-leading career. 

Perhaps the most tragic scene of his career took place in Jake Rup- 
pert's office. It was late in the 1934 season. Ruth had hit only .288, The 
end was in sight now for the 39-year-old King. There was only one 
more goal, one more dream to be realized. With Christy Walsh, his hard- 
boiled little syndicate manager, beside him, the Babe put the issue 
squarely up to Ruppert. 

"Let me manage the Yankees/* 

Ruppert was nettled by Ruth's abruptness. He was embarrassed and 
sorry and, for once, seemingly undecided about what he should do. The 
two men exchanged glances. The clashes of many years were in their 
eyes, and the friendship and the memories of the great years when the 
Yankees were the toughest and finest ball club in the country. 

"Look, Ruth," the Colonel said slowly, "1 know how much you want 
to manage this club. Believe me, I know what it means to you. I've 
thought about it many times. But this is a big job, Babe/' Ruppert said 
softly. "You're untried as a manager. Would you go to Newark, Ruth- 
would you manage the ball club there and then " 

"To Newark' the Babe said. He was hurt. "I'm a big leaguer. I've 
always been a big leaguer/' 

Christy Walsh broke in, huffily. "No sir, Mr. Ruppert, it's the big job, 
or nothing." 

Ruppert did not take his eyes off Ruth. The Babe met his gaze. Then 
his eyes turned away and he mumbled something from the deep caverns 
of his chest, turned, and walked slowly out of the room. That really was 
the end of the career of the greatest Yankee of them all. 

After the "34 season, Ruth and Gehrig, with other Yankee players, 
toured Japan, swatting homers for the kids of that country who had 
taken to the great American game in a way that was close to fanatical. 
From there, the players completed a trip around the world. Throngs 
greeted them everywhere. The luds of all countries wanted to see the 
Babe in person. In February, Ruth came back to New York and asked 
Ruppert for his release. If he couldn't be the best Yankee on the field, or 
if he couldn't lead the Yankees from the dugout, he would never wear 
the New York uniform again. 

He never did. Ruppert gave him an unconditional release from the 
Yankees. As a final gesture, the only decent one that could be made, he 
turned the Babe loose with no strings attached, refusing to make a profit 
on Ruth's new deal with Judge Fuchs, owner of the Boston Braves. 

f 301 ] 

But the man whose very name was synonymous with baseball to so 
many fans and players, was now merely standing on the stage after the 
curtain had come down. He made one last, courageous, typical bluster- 
ing and wonderfully Ruthian gesture to regain the strength and power 
that was irrevocably gone. 

Starting in 1935 as an assistant manager and player for the Braves, 
Ruth hit six home runs. But, as the season got under way, as younger 
ballplayers raced past him, the Babe couldn't stay in there. He caught a 
cold. His legs began to buckle under him. He was very tired. In all, he 
stayed 97 days with the Braves, in the town of Boston where he had 

On May 25th, at Pittsburgh, just before he turned in his spikes for- 
ever, Babe showed he still had the old Ruth touch. He hit three home 
runs In that one game. Shortly thereafter he quit. 

The name of Babe Ruth dropped out of the sports pages. George 
Selkirk wore the big number 3 for the Yankees and was going good in 
the right-field garden in the Stadium. 

Babe traveled around a bit, made an occasional statement for the press, 
appeared at a few benefits and dinners. Once, as he was packing to go 
to Honolulu, Frank J. Navin, owner of the Detroit Tigers, reached him 
by phone and offered him a job as pilot of that club. Nobody knows 
whether Ruth was embittered by the passing years, humble or confused, 
but, for once in his life, he could not quite make up his mind what he 
wanted. Navin asked him to stop through Detroit on his way West, but 
the Babe never did. When he got back from Honolulu, three months 
later, he had decided he wanted to get back in harness again. He called 

"I'm ready to talk about that manager's job now, Frank," he said. 

"Sorry, Babe," the voice came over the phone. "I've signed Mickey 

It was quite a blow to the big fellow, but he covered it up and only 
a few knew how badly he felt. Nothing was breaking across the plate 
for the Babe now. "It's hell to be getting older," he said to a friend. Now 
and then an old time sportswriter, nostalgic for the past, would dig in 
the files of his memory and come up with a short tribute to the Babe 
and call him "the forgotten man of baseball/' 

You didn't hear of the Babe very much after that until 1938, when 
the love for the game got him again and, for a brief period, he put on a 
Dodger uniform and tried to make a go of it as a coach. 

Ruth retired to his apartment on Riverside Drive. Now and again you 
would see him at the ball park, wrapped up in the familiar tan polo 
coat, chewing on one of the four cigars the doctor allowed him. Necks 
would crane, lads would gather, Babe would scrawl his name on base- 
balls. But it wasn't the same. 

[302 J 

The Nazis moved across Europe, the Japs snealced In on Pearl Har- 
bor. We had a war on our hands. There were other things to think about 
besides baseball. Out in the tangled jungles of New Britain, a group of 
tired and battle-worn Marines lay in the sultry, late-morning heat, eyes 
searching for the enemy. Suddenly the Japs broke out into the clear, 
charging fanatically. To the ears of the Americans lying in wait came a 
chant both unbelievable and challenging. 'To hell with Babe Ruth!'* the 
Japs were shouting. 

No, he was not quite forgotten. Not to the Marines on New Britain 
that morning, facing an enemy whose supreme Insult was to curse a man 
who meant America to them, meant it as much as the hot clogs he loved, 
and the great game he played. The Marines opened up. There was a 
small story In the papers saying the charge had been stopped, men- 
tioning what the Japs had said about Babe Ruth. 

The war went on. One day, a good sunny baseball day, there was a 
charity game in Yankee Stadium. There was to be some sort of ceremony 
before the game. Walter Johnson, the great old-timer, was out in the 
pitcher's box warming up. Suddenly, a man came out of the Yankee 
dugout. A murmur crept through the crowd. Everybody stood up and 
then, as if from the bowels of the stadium there came a crashing, swell- 
ing roar that the sight of only one man could create. 

It was the Babe. He had the big bat over his shoulder, a big floppy 
smile on a face that the years hadn't changed much. He stopped and 
waved at the stands. He was 48 years old, but with the sound of the 
:rowd in his ears, he must have felt ageless that day. 

The Babe took his position in the box. He stood the same way, feet 
:lose together, well back of the plate, the big club moving nervously on 
Jhe broad, sloping shoulders. Walter Johnson grinned at him. Ruth 
grinned back, then his face changed to the old, earnest scowl and he 
pointed his bat at the right-field bleachers. 

Nobody believed he could still do it. It was a great gesture, though. No- 
x>dy believed him but die old players who were there that day, the gray- 
leaded sportswriters, the fans who had become fathers and grandfathers, 
[ohnson wound up and threw a couple across. The Babe swung at one 
md missed. Nobody laughed that day. 

Then Johnson sent one down the middle, hard and fast. The big club 
:ame off Ruth's shoulder. There was a ringing whack. The ball sailed 
nto the air, high, far and beautiful. There was the long "aaah/* The 
>all dropped Into the right-field stands for a homer. The Babe trotted 
iround the bases, jogging slowly. The smile on his face was fine to 

That was the Babe's last home run. For many, the 10- and i2-year- 
>ld kids in the stands that day, it was the only home run they had ever 
;een Babe Ruth hit. But it was as good as any that magical, magnificent 

[ 303 ] 

figure ever hit. It was a solid smash, like all Ruthian homers. It seemed 
to have the power of the years stored up in it. 

And that is the way this story about George Herman Ruth should 
end. On a home run. Everything that came after was anti-climax 
even the Babe's courageous, uncomplaining fight against the cancer 
that struck him in the early Forties, reduced the bellow of his voice to a 
hoarse whisper, and finally took his life on August 16, 1948. 

The thousands who trooped gravely past the coffin in The House 
That Ruth Built knew that hitting a homer is the best thing you can do 
in a ball game, whether it is on a ratty, little sandlot or in Yankee Sta- 
dium. And it was the kid from the streets of Baltimore who had made 
the home run the wonderful thing that it is to baseball. 

Babe Ruth played his game, baseball, in an era of gigantic names, in 
the time of Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones, Bill Tilden. But the Babe's 
records are still intact. He was the most colorful, exciting, sincere, and 
lovable figure of his time, both as a man and as an athlete. He brought 
to the game the best that he had. If any one man deserves the credit, 
Babe Ruth must go down in history as the player who made baseball the 
top American sport. 

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